Everyone knows that staying fit and active is an important part of maintaining a happy and healthy lifestyle. It brings physical benefits, such as building muscle and losing fat, as well as mental benefits, such as stress relief and better sleep. You also feel better and reduce the risk of many chronic conditions. But is there a limit to how much we can do before all those benefits instead turn into damage to our bodies? How much exercise is too much?
How Much Exercise Should You Do?
According to U.S. health exercise guidelines, adults need at least 150 minutes a week of moderate intensity physical activity or 75 minutes a week of vigorous intensity activity. Also, if you want to get more benefits out of your workouts, it’s recommended to increase it to 300 minutes a week and include 2 or more days a week of muscle-strengthening activities.
In any case, doing at least some physical activity is better than doing none. If you’re currently not working out at all, it’s best to start by doing at least just the minimum amount of exercise and gradually build up.
With all that being said, these are just guidelines. How much exercise a person should be doing depends on a number of factors. You might need to do more or less exercise depending on your body composition, your fitness goals, health status, training history and age.
But How Much Is Too Much?
Although the upper limit does not exist, it is still possible to overdo it and cause harmful effects. However, each individual has their own individual threshold when the training starts to compromise their results.
For example, if you’re a young person with good nutrition habits and a strong nervous and immune system, you’ll be able to handle more exercise than others. However, the older you get or if you don’t supplement your exercise with adequate calories and nutrients, it becomes harder to recover from the exercise.
Exercise addiction is commonly associated with high levels of perfectionism, determination and persistence. There are also quite a few gym addicts among expectant mums, who are struck with fear of their changing body shape.
The harmful effects of exercising too much are known as the overtraining syndrome. It occurs in athletes and fitness enthusiasts who train without giving their body enough time to recover.
It’s important to remember that rest days are just as important as your workout routine. Your body needs this time to fully recover and grow. The muscle tissue is broken down during your workouts but the real growth happens during the recovery phase.
Rest days are also important for your mind. Excessive exercise attacks the nervous system, which leads to producing too many free radicals and results in oxidative stress. An overtrained nervous system makes it harder to recover and make progress.
Never taking a day off from high-intensity exercise can set your body up for a breakdown. This can make you more susceptible to severe muscle soreness, declining performance, improper sleep, loss of motivation and physical injury.
Excessive Exercise of Endurance Athletes
Extreme athletes often push past the limits of their physical capabilities. However, chronic extreme training and performance in endurance events stress the heart muscle and can lead to heart troubles.
When you’re resting, your heart pumps about 5 quarts of blood per minute. During an extreme workout, that figure goes up to 25-30 quarts. By letting our bodies rest after exercise, we allow that figure to go back to normal. However, our heart was not designed to handle such a big load for hours on end, day after day. This can lead to scarring of the heart and thicker heart walls. It can also increase the risk of heart rhythm disorders.
Symptoms of Too Much Exercise
- Decreased performance.
- Poor sleeping patterns.
- Decreased appetite.
- Severe muscle soreness.
- Suppressed immune system.
- Mood swings and irritability.
- Needing longer periods of rest.
- Increased resting heart rate.
- Loss of motivation.
How to Avoid Overtraining
To safeguard your body against physical injury and prevent placing too much stress on your body, you can take a few precautions.
- Eat enough calories and provide your body with the necessary nutrients needed to maintain your physical activity level.
- Drink enough water during the exercise.
- Skip working out in extreme heat or cold.
- Get enough sleep.
- Leave one day each week for rest.
- Listen to your body and stop exercising if you don’t feel well.
Exercise and even strenuous exercise definitely has many positive benefits for your health and wellness. Whether you’re a fitness enthusiast, an athlete or a senior, physical activity is good for you. And while there are some concerns about extreme chronic training, there is not much for an average person to worry about.
If you’re concerned that you’re overtraining, try to find a balance. If the exercise becomes compulsive, that’s when it becomes a problem. It can affect your body, as well as your relationships, family or job. Look out also for the signs of overexercising, such as feeling burned out, muscle soreness, loss of appetite, etc.
So while exercise should be a crucial part of your lifestyle, it should not be the only thing in your life. Also, don’t forget to supply your body with the essential nutrients and give yourself a day off to help your muscles recover. This way you’ll sustain your fitness progress and will improve your health over the long term.