Intelligent Exercise ~ It’s About Hormones, Not Calories!


In recent articles, I’ve talked about how exercise really isn’t about “burning extra calories” … in fact, there’s plenty of research that shows it doesn’t really do much of that after all! 

That does NOT mean that I don’t recommend exercise. Quite the opposite.

In all of our health recovery protocols and one-on-one consulting with clients/patients, regardless of their health goals, exercise (MOVEMENT) is part of the plan. This is true of folks simply trying to improve their overall health & longevity, or doing a functional fasting protocol, or weight loss/health gain program, or thyroid recovery, or hormonal optimization, or gut health program, or pre-diabetes & diabetes recovery protocols, or brain & cognitive health restoration protocols, or autoimmune recovery… you name it!

Motion is life.

While there are some individual variances, for the most part I recommend that our clients incorporate the following 4 types of movement on a regular basis:

1. Daily “motion” and physical activity – This is NOT traditional “exercise” that results in panting and excessive sweat! It’s more like NOT being a couch potato! So, think of things like gardening and working in the yard, playing with your kids or the dogs, cleaning the house, and generally putzing around versus sitting around. 

2. Stress relief cardiovascular activity. – This is not what most would consider traditional “intense” exercise, either. This includes things like going for easy walks, or hikes, or bike rides, or kayaking, or stand up paddling… low-intensity versions of these movements. As an added bonus, when you do activities like these multiple times PER DAY, for short periods of time each time, you produce very powerful hormonal and neurological changes that will benefit you more than conventional work outs. (e.g. go for a 5-10 minute walk, 5 times per day)

3. Higher intensity “cardio” training. Here, we’re talking about incorporating some “bursts” of increased speed or intensity, while keeping your overall session shorter. (HIIT – High Intensity Interval Training is another way to describe this.) For example, instead of spending 45 minutes jogging on a treadmill, switch it up and do an 8 minute session that includes walking, jogging, running, sprinting in different intervals. E.g. Walk for a minute, jog for 45 seconds, run for 10 seconds, walk for 30 seconds, run for 15 seconds, walk for 45 seconds, sprint for 10 seconds, walk for 30 seconds, sprint for 15 seconds, walk for a minute, sprint for 20 seconds, jog for 30 seconds, walk for 30 seconds, sprint for 20 seconds, walk for 30 seconds…. just mix it up each time. Switching it up and challenging the body to ADAPT is where the hormonal magic is!

4. Higher intensity, functional “resistance” training. Lift and/or move some heavy things or things that challenge you…. through varying ranges of motion… without lolly-gagging and wasting time. This is like upgraded traditional resistance training. Key elements are: you should be challenged to work hard for short “bursts” of movement, your pace should be relatively quick, your overall work out time doesn’t need to be long (much can be accomplished in 15 minutes of focused work), and once again, the magic lies in challenging the body to adapt to new & interesting things… like functional movements where you’re challenging several body parts at once and moving multiple joints and moving away from rigid, linear exercises. We don’t want rigid and linear bodies… therefore, we shouldn’t train them that way.

With high intensity CHALLENGING exercise, we promote the release of our repair hormones, we build glycogen capacity, we increase energy production via mitochondrial ‘fitness’, and we can even help in the creation of new stem cells. Amazing stuff!



Depending on your underlying health, physical capability, and wellness goals, where you begin and how you progress through these types of movement patterns can change. For example, if someone is experiencing exceptionally high levels of daily stress and is chronically sleep deprived, then beginning with high intensity burst exercise for cardio and resistance training would be stress hormone overkill! The exercise progression should be ‘harmonious’ with your current health and hormone profile, otherwise we end up jumping from exercise program to exercise program, boot camp to boot camp, never really getting results or getting any healthier… but hormonally burning ourselves out in the process. 

Without a doubt, the greatest benefits that exercise delivers are: the powerful hormonal shifts, the immediate improvement in metabolic efficiency, the long-term contribution to metabolic flexibility and mitochondrial fitness, and the positive impact on brain function. Not so much about calorie burn!


Can you see how exercise really isn’t an option as much as it is a crucial component of a healthy lifestyle?

You don’t need to join a gym… but you can, if that’s what would help right now.

You don’t need to take classes or boot camps… but you can if it would help.

You don’t need a trainer… unless you want one to help you get started or start a new program.

You don’t need a lot of expensive equipment… but if it would help you keep moving, go for it.

See a pattern? It doesn’t really matter WHAT you do to move, or WHERE you do it, or WHO you do it with, or HOW LONG you stick to that type of movement. Just get started, stay as consistent as you can, change it up and do something different if you start to get bored or plateau. Exercise should evolve – there are times when you’ll get on a roll with great work outs, and great routines. Then there are other times that you’ll be completely off track. Do SOMETHING anyway. Even if it’s a 5 minute walk.

In a sense, exercise can be “seasonal”, very much like our diet variation should be. We may be runners, cyclists, roller bladers, stand up paddlers, swimmers, and baseball players in the warm weather months, and focus more on boot camps, classes, yoga and cardio equipment in the cold weather months. It’s not that you “quit” one type of exercise. You simply transitioned to another!

Remember, changing things up will help you in the long run. Hormonal optimization is maximized through adaptation to change.

Embrace the idea of moving your body as a way of ensuring better health… and become a mover for life!





Dr. Colleen Trombley-VanHoogstraat (“Dr Mom Online”) is a popular personality in Natural Health & Wellness and is in her 24th year of active practice in Michigan, along with her husband Dr. Marc VanHoogstraat. She’s also the proud mom of two rather fabulous kiddos that she currently home schools. Her unique perspective of the science of Wellness provides predictable solutions and transformational results for those struggling with chronic health issues, as well as those seeking lifelong health. To discover her simple strategies for creating better health through functional nutrition, movement, mindset, cellular detoxification, and metabolic re-setting, jump on board as a regular reader of Dr Mom Online when you plug in your name and email address.

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