We all know how important it is to exercise as part of your health regimen, to stay active and get some heart-pumping activity several times a week. There is an extensive list of benefits of a regular exercise program. But can you overdo this exercise? How do you know if you are? And what are the problems associated with excessive exercise?
The American Heart Association recommends 150 minutes (2.5 hours) of moderate-intensity aerobic activity a week for adults. They also recommend adding moderate to high intensity muscle-strengthening activity at least 2 days per week. For the average person, finding time to fit in these recommendations can be difficult. Then there are those people who just can’t seem to get enough exercise and develop an addiction or obsession with exercise to the extreme. Obviously if your occupation involves extensive physical activity, i.e. professional athletes, dancers, celebrity performers, etc., your exercise routine will be a more aggressive training program to remain at peak performance level, but the average person should be careful to not overdo.
Every person is unique and there is no definitive “how much is too much exercise” for everyone. Individual parameters will vary, but there are some signs you may experience if you are exercising too much. Over-exercising can cause an energy imbalance between the amount of energy consumed and the amount of energy expended during exercise. If you are in an energy deficit for an extended period of time it can cause many health issues. Too much exercise can lead to injuries, exhaustion, and hormonal imbalance.
Some physical effects of overtraining can include increased resting heart rate, decreased appetite, restless legs and dehydration; sleep disturbances such as poor sleep quality or insomnia; mental effects such as poor mood and increased stress. In women, over exercising along with undereating, for the amount of training they are doing, can lead to amenorrhea (classified as no menstrual period for three months or more). For women with amenorrhea (caused from an energy imbalance) this can lead to a higher risk for low bone mass, leading to weakened bones, called osteoporosis. This type of bone loss can cause an increased risk of fractures, including stress fractures.
Rest days are essential. This is when your body is able to rest, regenerate, rebuild, and repair. Rest days also help with injury reduction and help prevent overuse injuries. Listen to your body. Your body is great at telling you what you need. Rather than doing something intensive, substitute a walk around the block. Find that balance in your exercise program. Give yourself a day of rest in between those strenuous workouts for your body to recover and build progress in your fitness level.