Exercising has a lot of proven health benefits, and for some people, it even becomes an addiction. Do you think you might be working out too much?
The Benefits of Exercising
No one can deny that exercise, coupled with a healthy and balanced diet, is beneficial to the body.
Living a sedentary lifestyle and gorging yourself with junk food will only lead you closer to your grave; numerous health risks have been linked to a lack of physical activity and consuming excessive amounts of the wrong kind of food.
Let’s have a quick rundown of the many benefits of why you should exercise:
- It helps control weight gain
- It combats stress
- Endorphins, the happy chemical, can help fight depression and anxiety
- Your brain functions better over time
- It can help you with unhealthy addictions
- Your skin will have a natural and radiant glow
- Regular exercise also helps with sleep quality
- You also get to widen your social circle
With so many benefits related to exercise, it isn’t easy to think why some people tend to overdo it.
How Much is Too Much?
Only you can gauge that.
What you may deem as a strenuous physical activity might be moderate for some, and if working out for an hour three times a week is just a walk in the park for you, it might leave others gasping for air.
As you go through your fitness journey, you’ll experience a bunch of high and lows. Some days you can see progress, other days your feet feel like lead and you’re practically dragging yourself to the gym. You’ll discover that one exercise routine is boring, while another is just too much.
Knowing where your physical limits lie can only be done with a series of trials. Change it up every once in a while; have a go at free weights instead of heading straight to a machine, or intensify your cardio activity.
What is Overtraining?
Because working out can be addicting – due to the positive effects it has – you can stretch yourself a bit too thin and force your body to do more than it naturally could. This is called overtraining. Even avid gym goers fall prey to this condition.
Some people confuse overtraining with focusing on a certain muscle group for too long, and this isn’t the case. Overtraining means that you’re not giving your body enough time to rest and recover after working out.
It’s understandable to think why some people would end up overtraining, especially when they have reached certain milestones within their fitness journey. In the middle of a quest it’s normal to feel extremely motivated and push ourselves to do better than the last, but it is exactly this kind of attitude that can actually become a major setback in the long run.
Signs of Overtraining
Despite having good intentions, overexerting yourself isn’t the healthiest and wisest thing you can do to your body. Here are some questions you can ask yourself if you have been working out too much:
- Are the intensities of your work out the same every single session?
- Does exercise become a priority that you end up missing social events?
- Do you work out more than once a day?
- Despite working out vigorously, do you find yourself noticing a lack of change/s in your body?
- Does working out leave you tired instead of energised?
- Do you have mood swings?
- Is mental fatigue more common?
- Do you have a hard time sleeping at night?
- Do you experience muscle soreness despite having recovery time?
- Are you more prone to illnesses recently, such as the common cold or flu?
- Are recovery times between workouts longer?
If you have answered “yes” to any of the questions above, you might have to start rethinking about your workout routine. Straining your body to the point of exhaustion is NOT the point of exercise.
Effects of Working Too Much
Aside from prolonged muscle soreness and a lack of progress, exercising too much can have other negative effects on your body:
Matters of the heart
No need to blame your ex on this one.
Your heart is an involuntary muscle, and just like other muscle groups in the body it also needs to strengthen itself. Moderate exercise, done at least once a week, is enough to cut your risk of developing heart ailments in the future.
However, over-exercising can potentially damage your heart. People who have trained too much and too often have had irregular heart rates, as well as a fluctuation in blood pressure. If you have been doing extreme endurance training for a marathon, you may damage your heart, arteries may become enlarged, and you can acquire heart rhythm disorders. Your heart may also adapt and remodel itself, its muscle walls thickening over time and possibly scarring the heart tissue. For women, too much exercise can lead to heart attack and stroke.
Women are likely to overdo exercising as much as men, and it affects their bodies in a different way. There is what is called the “female athlete triad”, a phenomena that women gym goers experience when they push their bodies to the extreme limits. This include:
- Loss of menstruation: in extreme cases, women may discover that their menstrual period will stop when they have been exercising too vigorously and limiting caloric intake. A period burns calories and when a woman has been overtraining, her metabolism slows down so that her body has enough calories to consume. It is her body’s way of surviving.
- Osteoporosis or bone mineral loss: Brittle bones don’t sound healthy in old age (or at any age for that matter) and a woman’s body ends up tapping into the mineral deposits in her bones when she hasn’t been eating enough in a day.
- Developing eating disorders: Anorexia or bulimia are common eating disorders that women are more likely to develop than men when they over-exercise.
As for men, there was a decrease in libido (possibly due to low testosterone levels and physical fatigue) for those who overdo exercise.
Both men and women are more likely to be injured. Tendonitis and stress fractures are common effects from repetitive actions.
The immune system also takes a beating, and you may find yourself getting sick more often. After working out, there is a window of about 72 hours of suppressed immunity – meaning, your body is pretty much an open door and virus and bacteria will have an easier time clinging to you.
You may also experience a guilt trip. Whenever you miss a workout, you feel bad and try to make up for it. You may also develop an irrational fear of gaining weight and falling out of shape whenever you miss a session. Missing one (or even a few workout sessions) won’t do any long term damage to your body; over-exercising will. If your workout routine affects other aspects of your life – you miss gatherings with friends or you have been churning out poor quality work at the office – you are most definitely overdoing it.
A Call for Action
Lack of action, that is.
Your body needs to recover whenever you’ve done any physical activity. Muscle fibres tear up and repair itself during the recovery period, which is why people bulk up when they lift weights. Here are some tips to help you:
- Change your routine once in a while and do different things. Doing the same exercises over and over again can injure your body. You might even find yourself reaching your fitness goals earlier than expected — if done correctly and with enough rest.
- Whenever you increase the intensity of your workout, do so carefully and gradually. Decide to make tiny steps at a time, rather than big ones.
- Make sure you’re eating right and healthily. Your body needs the right type of fuel for it to function at its optimal best.
- Catching some zzz’s will help your body recover better. Aim for eight hours of uninterrupted sleep a night.
- Keep stress at bay and focus on the positive! Stress can affect your performance at the gym. Find ways to destress (aside from exercising). Watch a series, buy a stress ball, or play with your pet.
- Don’t think that a rest day means you’re lazy. Remove that toxic notion and just let your body do its thing. If you experience withdrawal symptoms (quite common to those who over-exercise), do a quick 10-minute workout (5 minutes of cardio, and 5 minutes of strengthening exercise) just to help you move on with your day.
- Make each workout a quality workout – don’t do it just for the sake of.
- If scaling back your workout routine is hard, get a personal trainer. They can help build a workout routine that will best suit your schedule and lifestyle. They’re also there to give you pep talks when you begin feeling guilty about a missed session. Sometimes a good support team is all you need to prevent yourself from overtraining.
A Final Word
We at Rec Xpress aim to promote a healthy relationship with exercise and general well-being. Dialing back your workout routine may sound impossible when you’re overtraining, but with the proper mindset, exercise becomes a fun and fruitful activity that you’re supposed to enjoy.
Drop by any of our six locations and talk to a staff member when you want to start your fitness journey. You may also get a membership online, and with a $11 a week fee, you have access to all locations 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.