06/17/2016 02:45 EDT | Updated 06/17/2016 02:59 EDT

Chilling Out Can Help You Slim Down For Summer

Summer is here! And those of us who are looking forward to the beach, here's some good news: Stress reduction is by far the best sweat-free way to shed any unwanted pounds.

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Man laying in rowboat on tranquil lake

Summer is here! And those of us who are looking forward to the beach, here's some good news: Stress reduction is by far the best sweat-free way to shed any unwanted pounds.

Exactly will stress reduction benefit your physique? By learning to relax more often and more effectively, your body's production of the stress hormone, cortisol, will be minimized.

In turn, this will make your metabolism more efficient, according to medical experts. This will allow you to burn more fat, particularly around your middle.

Conversely, sustained stress can cause your body to burn fewer calories. That happens when your body responds to elevated stress by going into survival mode. In other words, your metabolism slows down and your body starts to hoard fat.

However, our biological heritage has only primed us to instinctively react this way to stress from anywhere between a few seconds to a few minutes at a time. This is known as the "fight or flight" response. In the wild, as soon as the threat ends, this stress response shuts down.

Now here's the modern-day catch: As humans, we've been conditioned to activate this surge of stress hormones for psychological concerns, as well as physical threats. All manner of uncomfortable situations and perceived problems can evoke this knee-jerk fight or flight reaction for hours (or even days) at a time. This keeps the cortisol flowing long after it should have abated.

Don't Sabotage Your Weight Loss

Even if you're not prone to piling on the pounds in spite of a big stress load because you get plenty of exercise, you'd better watch out: Cortisol can still frustrate your efforts to trim down to anything close to your ideal weight.

Furthermore, studies show that elevated cortisol levels can cause you to gain weight simply by making you overeat, as well as triggering cravings for sugar and fat.

Interestingly, if you make an effort to chill your way to a sleeker physique, you'll start to lose interest in foods that are loaded with too many calories.

Additionally, your cortisol levels will decrease if you make a habit of relaxing more often and more effectively. (Try meditation or just "living in the moment" if you're finding it hard to chill out.)

By getting your stress hormones in check, your metabolism will operate more efficiently and allow you to burn more fat, particularly around your middle.

Testosterone Spoiler Alert: Guys (and Ladies) Watch Out!

Among the various other health problems that excess belly fat can cause is low testosterone. This affects nearly a third of all men over the age of 55. And that's not just a problem that's confined to the bedroom.

Low testosterone can quickly cascade into a host of other health issues. (Ladies, don't gloss over this part because your bodies also rely on this all-important fat-burning hormone, albeit to a lesser extent than men.)

Diminished testosterone isn't just the leading cause of a sagging sex drive. Over time, it also leads to less strength and stamina, mild muscle atrophy, weaker bones and low energy.

But the mere act of slimming down can significantly reverse this unhealthy condition, studies have found.

How Unseen Fat Causes Visible Harm

Even if you aren't too worried about a slowly spreading midsection, remember that fighting the flab isn't just about looking good.

Frankly, you need to concern yourself with the insidious, unseen dangers of packing on the pounds. By which I mean, there's a strong correlation between stress and an accumulation of dangerous "visceral" abdominal fat.

This unseen type of flab accumulates deep inside your abdomen, even enveloping your internal organs.And it can increase your risk of heart disease, diabetes and some types of cancer, according to medical studies.

At the very least, it triggers internal inflammation. Occurring at a cellular level, this type of hidden inflammation is pro-aging.

However, if you manage your stress load better and stay trim, you won't be burdened by this especially dangerous type of body fat.

Summer Time Chilling

So, do yourself a big favour: Chill out! And the more often you do this, the easier it will be to burn calories. In turn, the more weight you lose, the better you will look and feel.

This all amounts to a positive feedback loop, which can help you to stay in fine form for the rest of your life. As a bonus, it might even help you to turn a few heads at the beach.

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