Anxiety can interfere with weight loss efforts in men, according to new research

Anxiety can increase the likelihood of weight gain and cardiovascular disease

Man looking anxious in the gym
(Image credit: Getty Images)

If you're looking to lose weight in 2022, stress can get in the way. With a busy schedule and a global pandemic to worry about, it's no wonder we're suffering from record levels of anxiety.

The best exercises for weight loss and the best exercise machines to lose weight might help you burn fat by virtue of providing plenty of aerobic and resistance training benefits, but soaring stress levels and worrying could be hampering your progress – especially if you're a man, according to a new study.

Research published in the Journal of the American Heart Association (opens in new tab) finds middle-aged men who are anxious and worry more may be at greater biological risk for developing heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes.

These three conditions, known collectively as cardiometabolic disease, are all closely associated with weight gain and obesity. Lewina Lee, Ph.D., lead author of the study, wrote: "Our findings indicate higher levels of anxiousness or worry among men are linked to biological processes that may give rise to heart disease and metabolic conditions."

Anxiety

(Image credit: Getty Images)

The researchers studied reports of 1,561 men and found higher worry levels were associated with a 10% higher likelihood of having six or more cardiometabolic disease risk factors. This could be due to the increased production of cortisol in the body. Known as "the stress hormone", cortisol is released most often in stressful situations, encouraging our bodies to hold onto fat cells. 

Historically, cortisol helped us to survive as the body chews through fat stores rather than food. But we're not concerned about sabre-toothed tigers these days—we're more worried about bills, what other people think, and other situations that don't require an excess of energy storage. 

To decrease the production of cortisol in the body, we need to find more effective ways to de-stress. Meditation is a good start, which is proven to reduce cortisol levels (opens in new tab) in our bloodstreams, as can better sleep. Our guides on how to meditate, the best diffusers for essential oils, and buying the best mattress toppers are great places to start. 

However, reducing cortisol is one thing, but tackling the source of your anxiety is quite another. If you're worried you might be experiencing generalised anxiety disorder, you can reach out and find more information here (opens in new tab).

Matt Evans
News Editor

Matt Evans is an experienced health and fitness journalist and News Editor at Fit&Well, covering all things exercise and nutrition on the Fit&Well website. Matt originally discovered exercise through martial arts: he holds a black belt in Karate and remains a keen runner, gym-goer, and infrequent yogi. His top fitness tip? Stretch.