One Little-Known Way Excess Cortisol Can Damage Your Bones (And Your Body Too!) - Save Our Bones

Cortisol is a hormone released by the brain in response to stress. In fact, it's commonly referred to as the stress hormone. It readies your body to take fast action in a potentially dangerous situation — known as the “fight or flight” response.

Unfortunately, our modern lives are filled with stressors, which can lead to excessive and acidifying cortisol levels. Therefore, high levels of it over time acidify your serum pH, which, in turn, leads to bone loss.

But there's another lesser-known way that excess cortisol can harm your bones. Today, you’ll discover what it is and how to avoid or reduce the damage it can cause.

Cortisol Impairs Muscle Growth And Recovery

Cortisol is a catabolic agent, which means that it breaks down large compounds into smaller component parts. One of the compounds that cortisol breaks down is the protein in muscle mass. It does this to make amino acids available to the body as an emergency energy source.

This means that stress and cortisol are drivers of sarcopenia, or muscle loss.1 This can impact existing muscle mass by breaking it down, and it can impair the body's ability to repair muscle tissue. This repair process, called muscle recovery, is how we build new muscle after exercise.

Cortisol not only causes muscle loss, but it can prevent you from rebuilding the muscle mass you've lost.1


Cortisol is a catabolic agent. It breaks down compounds in the body, including muscle mass. This can cause excessive muscle loss (sarcopenia) and can prevent building new muscle tissue.

Muscle Mass Is Essential For Building New Bone

Strong muscles allow us to build strong bones. That's because the stress that skeletal muscle exerts on bone triggers the growth of new bone. This is the process described by Wolff's Law. Similar to how the muscles we use the most grow strongest, the bones that bear the most weight and pressure respond by adding bone mass.

If you lose muscle mass, you're also diminishing your ability to stimulate the growth of new bone. Since cortisol impairs your ability to build and maintain muscle mass, it also impairs your ability to reverse bone loss.


Muscles exert pressure on bone. This pressure stimulates the growth of new bone mass, as described by Wolff's Law. Since cortisol diminishes muscle mass, it impairs your ability to reverse bone loss.

Exercise Reduces Stress And Damage Caused By Cortisol

Reducing stress lowers cortisol levels. And one effective way for reducing your stress levels is regular exercise.

When you exercise your brain releases a neurochemical called norepinephrine, which is an endorphin that reduces the feeling of stress.2

Additionally, exercise helps prevent cortisol's catabolic effect on muscle. A study published in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism examined six healthy participants before and after 14 days of bed rest. Researchers measured the effects of an infusion of cortisol on their muscle mass. This is what they found:

“The absence of muscular activity sensitizes skeletal muscle to the catabolic effects of cortisol. This predisposition to protein breakdown is such that skeletal muscle in healthy volunteers is metabolically analogous to severely injured or stressed patients.”3

Regular exercise prepares your body to handle stress without breaking down your muscles. Conversely, if you don't exercise, then the stress you experience is taking an outsized toll on your muscle mass.3


Exercise triggers the release of an endorphin called norepinephrine that reduces feelings of stress. Studies have shown that regular exercise also reduces the amount of damage on muscle mass caused by excessive cortisol.

What This Means To You

You can make choices and take actions that reduce stress– simple decisions such as practicing meditation, going for walks in nature, or scheduling time for relaxing activities.
Exercise is one of those stress-reducing actions. And remarkably, exercise also prepares your body to deal with stress without damaging your muscles.

The overlapping benefits of exercise make it essential for preventing and reversing osteoporosis. That's why the Save Institute created SaveTrainer. SaveTrainer makes it easy and enjoyable to build a customized workout plan, guided by professional trainers, all available on demand. It might be just the thing you need to build an exercise routine you love.

Physical activity should make you feel good, even when it's challenging! Be sure to let yourself feel proud of the healthy choices you make. Those good feelings are part of reducing stress and building stronger bones.





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Comments on this article are closed.

  1. Connie S Townsend

    Hi Vivian,
    I just wanted to clarify something. In the weekend wisdom, one of the articles spoke of cortisol and Ashwagandha. It stated that cortisol came from the adrenal gland. In another article talking about cortisol. It stated that cortisol came from the brain. I believe the correct place that cortisol is produced is the adrenal gland. I do want to thank you for all the information that you provide. Your cook book and exercise program has been a great benefit to me. I’ve been on several meds for my bones and decided to stop meds and try your program. I’m hoping my next bone density will show much needed improvement in my bones.

    • Vivian Goldschmidt, MA

      You are correct, Connie. The adrenocorticotropin hormone (ACTH) stimulates the adrenal glands to produce and release cortisol into the blood.

      Keep up with your natural bone health treatments and let us know of your progress!

  2. Marlene Villar

    Hello Vivian,

    Excellent reminder. Thank you.

    May GOD richly bless you and your family.
    Have a wonderful day.

    • Vivian Goldschmidt, MA

      You’re very welcome, Marlene!

  3. Toni

    I have reissued my subscription this year. I got lazy since the gym closed from COVID-19. I just recently had my bone density done and I do have osteoporosis. This is disheartening not only for the diagnosis, but b/c my Dr. wants me to start drugs, which I am opposed to. So thankyou for your articles. I have been exercising daily and I feel strong, just concerned that I could damage myself in anyway from working out. Your thoughts on this please would be appreciated. I feel good so I hope I am not unknowingly injuring myself. Thanks…Toni

    • Vivian Goldschmidt, MA

      It’s my pleasure, Toni! It’s not surprising that your doctor wants to prescribe osteoporosis drugs. That’s what the Establishment does! Fortunately, you know better 🙂

      And if you’re concerned about causing damage when you workout, I suggest you consult with a reputable physical therapist about that.

  4. Hester

    That is a excellent article.
    Thanks Vivian for saving our bones.

    • Vivian Goldschmidt, MA

      You’re welcome, Hester!

  5. Cecile Apostolidou

    Thank you for this article. I’m not much medical minded , but how do we know or recognize this loss in our bodies? Thank you!!

    • Vivian Goldschmidt, MA

      You’re welcome, Cecile! To answer your question, it depends on the level of muscle loss. It might be very subtle or very noticeable, as in the case of sarcopenia. But why wait until that happens? Instead, keep exercising on a regular basis to prevent it.

  6. Carol Figg

    Thank you for your instructions over a number of years now. I have your Save the bones kit.
    I have had a serious injury which meant Brain surgery but I am slowly getting better.
    It has been challenging to get back to exercising but it is slowly happening.🌈
    Thank you again
    Warm regards

    • Vivian Goldschmidt, MA

      I’m so glad you’re getting better and that you persist with your health goals, Carol!
      Stay healthy and always know that we’re here for you 🙂

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