We all know that two of the most important components of a healthy lifestyle are diet and exercise, but is there such a thing as too much exercise?
The short answer: absolutely.
Exercise is a great way to reduce fat, build muscle, and burn stress, but like every good thing in life, it’s important to use moderation. Here are some of the risks of too much exercise:
- Injuries. Areas of your body that are especially at risk for injury when you exercise too much are your shoulders, your lower back, and your knees.
- Exhaustion. We’ve all felt tired after hard workouts, but the exhaustion that comes with too much exercise is a feeling that doesn’t leave you no matter how much you sleep.
- Depression. When practiced in healthy moderation, exercise does a lot to relieve symptoms of depression, but too much exercise can actually cause depression.
- Lasting physical harm. Along with the injuries listed above that can happen with too much exercise, there are also longer-lasting physical effects, like the stiffening of blood vessels and decrease in antioxidant levels among hardcore exercisers who had been diagnosed with coronary artery disease.
- Short-term adverse cardiovascular effects. Working out too much can hurt your heart both long-term and short-term by causing irregular heart rhythms and pain in the chest.
- Dehydration. The more you exercise, the more you sweat. The more you sweat, the more water your body loses, which can ultimately lead to dehydration if the person exercising isn’t cautious.
So how do you know when you’re over-exercising? Some symptoms of too much exercise include but are not limited to:
- Inability to perform at your normal level. When you exercise consistently, you expect to see your body start to perform at higher levels than it used to, but when you regularly over-exercise, you start to see the opposite effect. If your performance has gone down instead of up even though you exercise regularly, you may be over-exercising.
- Needing longer periods of rest. When you push your body too hard and too often, you don’t allow it to get the rest it needs to truly recover. That’s why you feel even more exhausted than normal when you sit down to take a break; when your body stops moving, it starts trying to catch up on the rest it’s been denied.
- Insomnia. Exercise can help you achieve healthy sleep patterns, but if you over-exercise, you could actually keep yourself from sleeping at all. The human body does weird things when it’s pushed too far.
- Experiencing mood swings and/or irritability. A moderate amount of exercise can combat mood swings, but too much exercise that consistently leaves you physically drained and without a restful amount of sleep each night can lead to serious crankiness.
- Super sore/heavy limbs. Sore muscles after a good workout are relatively normal, but if you start feeling like your arms and legs are always sore or always heavy, you might be guilty of over-exercising.
- Acquiring overuse injuries. Some of these injuries include but are not limited to Jumper’s knee, Spondylolisthesis and Spondylolysis, Sever’s disease, Sinding-Larsen-Johanssen disease, and Osteochondritis.
- Losing motivation. When your sleep, mood, and performance suffer, so does your motivation. Exercise in moderation can help give you the boost to be the best version of yourself that you can be, but too much exercise can give you depression and sap you of your ambition.
- Catching more colds. Your immune system can suffer from too much exercise, especially if you aren’t staying hydrated or letting your body get enough sleep at night.
- Feeling anxious. In a way similar to depression, moderate exercise can relieve symptoms of anxiety, but too much exercise can actually cause it.
- Increased resting heart rate. If you think you may be guilty of over-exercising, listen to your heart throughout your day. During periods of rest, does it seem like it’s beating faster than it should? If so, you should probably cut back on exercising, since an increased resting heart rate can signal more serious cardiovascular problems. A sleep tracker gadget and app may help you monitor your recovery as well.
Now we know the risks of too much exercise as well as some signs to keep an eye out for if we think we might be exercising too much. Now, here are a few ways to combat and prevent too much exercise:
- Eat enough calories for your exercise level. If you don’t exercise a lot, you need to eat fewer calories, but if you exercise often, you need to eat more. This will keep your body from slipping into dangerous warning signs and symptoms of over-exercise.
- Drink enough water when exercising. To combat dehydration, try to remember to sip on water throughout your workout and then to drink lots of water during your period of recovery. Drinking too much water during high-intensity workouts can cause nausea and vomiting, so be careful.
- Keep your electrolytes in balance by making a great refreshing sports drink by blending a ripe banana and a stalk or two of celery in a quart of water. Alter the ingredients to suit your taste.
- Aim to sleep around 8 hours a night. The average adult needs 7-9 hours of sleep, but if you can function on 7 without exercise and then decide to start exercising more and more, you’re going to need more sleep. By rule of thumb, 8 hours is a good amount of sleep time to aim for but adjust that time as dictated by your personal needs.
- If you don’t feel well or are under a lot of stress, cut back. Since exercise is supposed to help relieve stress and tension, this rule might seem counterintuitive, but pushing yourself too hard by exercising when you’re sick or under too much stress can do more harm to your body than good.
- Rest at least 6 hours between periods of exercise and take at least one full day off a week. This may be the most important way to tell if you’re overexercising or have an exercise addiction: if you can’t stand to rest at least 6 hours between periods of exercise, or if you find taking a day off from exercising intolerable, you may need to speak to a health professional to receive additional counseling.
Exercise is a great gift from God with a lot of benefits, but remember not to push yourself too hard. After all, even God rested on the seventh day.