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It’s possible to exercise too much — here’s what it can do to your body and brain

  • Exercise is supposed to be good for you — but exercising too much or running too fast can have serious consequences for your body and brain.
  • Over-exerting yourself could actually undo the results you worked hard to get, and worse, could damage your heart and arteries, lead to injuries, and make you addicted.
  • Watch the video above to learn the risks of working out too much and what you can do instead.

If working out is good for you, then working out more can only be better for you, right? Not quite. Too many trips to the gym or cardio sessions could actually undo all of those gains you’ve been working towards. Worse, they might be doing damage to your heart, arteries, and causing your brain to become addicted to exercise. Scary stuff!

Following is a transcript of the video.

Exercising is supposed to be good for you. It can help you stay at a healthy weight, improve your cardiovascular health, and even ward off depression. But like most things, it’s possible to over-do it. And getting too much exercise can have serious consequences for your body and brain. So, what exactly is “too much” exercising?

Well, it depends on factors like your age, health, and choice of workouts. But in general, adults should get around five hours a week of moderate exercise or two and a half hours of more intense activity. Or some combination of the two. That’s according to the CDC. But research shows that going way above and beyond that doesn’t increase your health benefits.

One unsurprising study found that light to moderate runners had a lower risk of death than people who didn’t exercise. But, in a surprising turn, some people who ran at a faster pace for more than three times a week had a similar risk of dying as the non-runners. So running too much, and too intensely, seems to undo some of the health benefits gained from regular running.

Extreme endurance exercises, like ultra-marathons, may also lead to heart damage, heart rhythm disorders, and enlarged arteries, in some people. Experts believe extreme endurance puts extreme demands on the cardiovascular system. One study found that repeated extreme exercises can “remodel” the heart, thickening the muscle’s walls and scarring tissue.

Another study showed that women were less likely to have a heart attack or stroke, if they were physically active at least once a week. But that risk of heart attacks and strokes shot up for women who exercised strenuously every day. So, excessive exercise doesn’t provide more benefits than moderate exercise. And it could be more risky.

Women are at particular risk for what’s known as the “female athlete triad” that includes: loss of menstruation, osteoporosis or bone mineral loss and eating disorders. These symptoms usually arise from a combination of overexercise and calorie restriction.

For men, intense exercise has been shown to decrease libido. Possibly due to physical fatigue and lower testosterone levels. For both men and women, overexercise raises the risk of overuse injuries, like tendinitis and stress fractures. These injuries result from repetitive trauma. Your immune system can likewise suffer.

While moderate exercise can improve your immune system, excessive exercise can actually suppress it.

There’s up to a 72-hour “open window” of impaired immunity after intense exercise. This basically means viruses and bacteria might have an easier time invading and infecting the body. And athletes who overexercised also experienced more upper respiratory tract infections.

So, we know excessive exercise can wreak havoc on your body — particularly your heart, tendons, ligaments, and immune system. And for around 1 million people in the US, exercise addiction is wreaking havoc on their brains.

Symptoms of exercise addiction include withdrawal — that’s when you feel anxious or exhausted when you miss a workout. Or feeling a lack of control and unable to cut down on exercise. Even when you know it’s hurting you.

Now, it’s important to understand that you shouldn’t just give up on exercising. The key is to get the right amount.

So, feel free to go forth and run. Just not all the time.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This video was originally published on April 18, 2018.

Photo: Scott Olson (Getty Images)

Too much of a good thing can be definitely bad for us. But a new study published Friday in JAMA Network Open suggests that exercise is a clear exception. It found that any level of cardiovascular fitness—including the kind you’d see from elite athletes—is linked to staying alive longer.

That exercise is universally great for our health sounds like a no-brainer, sure. But in recent years, there’s actually been evidence that elite athletes and other heavy exercisers might paradoxically be at greater risk of some heart conditions than the average person, such as an irregular heartbeat, clogged arteries, and thickened heart valves. And these conditions might then raise an athlete’s risk of sudden cardiac death or other heart problems.

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Based on this evidence, some researchers have theorized that the negative effects of exercise follow a U-curve, where too little and too much can damage the heart and shorten our lives. Much of this earlier research has relied on self-reported data, though, or only looked at short-term health outcomes, the authors behind the current study say.

So for their research, they decided to analyze long-term data from their own medical center, the Cleveland Clinic. They looked at more than 120,000 patients (their average age being 53) who had taken an exercise treadmill test at the clinic sometime between 1994 to 2014. The test results gave the researchers an objective measure of someone’s overall fitness. Then, using social security and medical records, they tracked if and when the patients died.

By the end of 2017, about 13,500 people had died. And across the board, the authors found, the more fit a person was, the less likely they were to be sent to an early grave. And while the life-saving effects of exercise did start to taper off, with elite athletes only being slightly more death-proof than merely highly active people, the researchers found there was “no observed upper limit of benefit.”

“These findings emphasize the importance of aerobic fitness in overall health,” the authors said.

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Elite athletes did certainly seem to live longer than everyone else, on average. When compared to people with the lowest fitness, the authors estimated, elite fitness was associated with an 80 percent reduction in mortality risk. And the effects of elite exercise were especially profound in older people and those with high blood pressure. But that isn’t to say that exercise is only for people who are hoping to run a marathon.

Other research has found that any amount of regular exercise will help you out in the long run, not just in prolonging your life but improving the quality of those last days. And in the current study, even people with below average levels of fitness were much less likely to die than those with the worst fitness. Overall, the authors estimated that poor fitness raised the risk of dying by the same degree or greater as other major risk factors, like cardiovascular disease or smoking.

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So yeah, the more exercise you can get, the better. But don’t get down on yourself for just doing as much power walking or stair climbing as you’re capable of.

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Exertional Rhabdomyolysis: A Dangerous Consequence of Doing too much Exercise too Soon
It would be difficult to find a sane and rational person who disagreed with the statement that regular exercise is good for you, and that more is better within reasonable limits. For the beginner exerciser however, or for those who are unaccustomed to certain exercises, the question of ‘how much is too much?’ becomes extremely important. Two important principles in exercise programming are overload and progression. Overload simply means that in order for a change in fitness to take place, the individual must perform more work than they are currently accustomed to performing. Take a beginner exerciser for example. Any amount of exercise would be considered overload because they have not been doing anything previously. However, when beginning a program, there is the risk of too much overload. That’s where the principle of progression comes into play. Progression means that in order for an exercise program to be safe and effective, the overload should be increased gradually over a period of several weeks. In other words, Rome wasn’t built in a day. It actually took two days. Just kidding!
In August of 2016, eight players from the Texas Woman’s University volleyball team were hospitalized with severe pain and swelling in the triceps muscle of both arms, as well as stiffness and weakness in those areas. Fortunately, all of the athletes recovered. A thorough investigation of the incident was launched, which led to an independent report stating that the cause was exertional rhabdomyolysis. We’ll just call it ‘rhabdo’ from this point forward.
Rhabdo begins with severe muscle damage, which comes about as a result of too much overload combined with the absence of progression. When muscle fibers experience such damage, they release a substance called myoglobin into the bloodstream. Myoglobin is a protein that is almost exclusively found in muscle tissue, and that’s where it should normally remain. When myoglobin finds its way into the blood, it eventually travels to the kidneys, where it can cause damage. If enough myoglobin is released from the injured muscles, this can lead to kidney failure, with an immediate need for dialysis.
So how did a group of University level volleyball athletes damage their muscles to such an extent that they were hospitalized with rhabdo? The simple answer is that they did too many push-ups! Let me elaborate. For most people, the push-up is a safe and effective strength training exercise that incorporates several muscle groups including the pectoralis major (pecs), triceps, serratus anterior, and anterior deltoid. A variation of the traditional push-up is known as the triceps push-up, where the elbows are held closely to the sides of the body instead of flaring out. As its name implies, the triceps push-up utilizes the triceps to a much greater extent than the traditional push-up. During an August pre-season training session, the volleyball team was asked to complete the following series of exercises in less than 9 minutes during a fitness testing session:

Round Burpees Squat-Jumps Triceps Push-ups
1 5 10 15
2 6 10 14
3 7 10 13
4 8 10 12
5 9 10 11
6 10 10 10
Total 45 60 75

Since this was the pre-season, the athletes were in various states of conditioning; some had worked out regularly during the summer, while others had not. None of the players had put any particular emphasis on performing triceps push-ups during their workouts. So, the principle of progression was violated. Most players went from never or rarely performing triceps push-ups to performing 75 of them in a single training session! Within 72 hours, 8 of the players were hospitalized. The equation is simple: Too much overload + no progression = exertional rhabdo.
So if you are just getting started on an exercise program or are about to incorporate a new exercise into your routine, easy does it! Your muscles need time to adapt to change. If you overdo it and experience the signs and symptoms summarized below, then you should seek immediate medical attention. Please note that these typically occur 24-72 hours following overexertion.
Signs and Symptoms of Rhabdo

  • Cola-colored urine
  • Severe muscular pain accompanied by swelling
  • Stiffness and weakness in affected muscles

Note: The Cooper Institute has recently published a state of the art textbook titled Principles of Health and Fitness for Fitness Professionals. This book is an absolute must for fitness leaders or anyone in the general population who wants to learn more about health and physical fitness. The book is also a great resource for anyone who is seeking to earn a nationally accredited personal trainer certification! Click on the links above to learn more.

While most people have trouble getting motivated to work out at all, there are some people—myself included—who have trouble taking even a single rest day.

And though it’s good to keep moving and working out on a near daily basis, it’s possible to overdo it sometimes.

Most people understand that rest is important—rest helps rebuild your muscles and allows them to grow back bigger and stronger—but there are times when we may try and push it too hard.

In the fitness world, this phenomenon of exercising too much is called overtraining, and most athletes of all levels have experienced it at some point in their lives (whether they know it or not).

Rather than helping you reach your goals faster, overtraining can actually send you backwards, resulting in symptoms such as unwanted weight gain/loss, lack of motivation to exercise, and fitness plateaus.

So how do you know if you’re exercising too much?

Here are 10 warning signs you might be overtraining:

1. You’re Experiencing Prolonged Muscle Soreness

If you have muscular pains or soreness that doesn’t go away after three days or more, you should probably take that as a sign that you’re exercising too much.

After heavy or intense training, your body needs time to recover—and constant, relentless soreness means it’s not getting that chance. Take it easy, and let your body recover.

2. You Keep Getting Sick.

Most healthy and fit people tend to have a fairly good immune system, rarely getting more than a mild cold every so often.

So if you’re getting sick more than normal, or just feel pretty crappy and fatigued overall, you can be pretty sure your body needs a break.

3. Your Energy is Really Low.

If you’re feeling extra fatigued and have had low energy for days on end but you know you’re not sick, you’re probably exercising too much.

Rest up, or prepare to sacrifice performance.

4. You’re Losing Weight Without Meaning To.

While most of the population would love to lose some extra weight by accident, if you have unintentional weight loss and a decreased appetite and you’re not actually trying to lose weight, it may be due to overtraining.

Remember to always make sure you’re getting proper nutrition and try your best to take a break at times.

5. You’re Feeling Extra Irritable.

Feeling extra agitated lately?

If you’re experiencing irritability as well as one or more of these other symptoms, you can make a safe bet that you’re exercising too much.

Save yourself (and the people around you) by taking a few days off here and there.

6. You’re Experiencing Early Onset of Fatigue.

Feeling an overall sense of fatigue after prolonged intense training, or getting unusually tired early on in your workouts?

You guessed it: you’re probably overtraining.

7. Your Resting Heart Rate is Higher Than Usual.

Most really fit people have a resting heart rate sub 50 or 60 bpm or so (the average person’s resting heart rate is 72 bpm).

Check yours regularly: if you’re in great shape, but your heart rate is significantly higher than expected, you may want to give your body a break from exercise.

There are lots of apps that will track resting heart rate these days, or if you’re a fitness nerd like me you might be interested in checking out the Whoop wearable band to measure recovery, including resting heart rate.

8. Your Heart Rate Variability (HRV) is Low.

While you want your resting heart rate to be fairly low, you actually want your heart rate variability (HRV) to be higher. Having a high HRV is a sign that your body is recovering well from stress (including your workouts). A low HRV is usually a sign that your body isn’t recovering well. Exercising too much can prevent you from proper recovery, and a low HRV will show it.

Again, there are a number of apps that measure HRV these days fairly accurately, or the Whoop does this as well.

9. You’re Less Motivated Than Usual.

If you’re an avid exerciser like me, but you’re feeling less and less motivated to work out, it could be your body giving you a signal that you actually need some time off.

Take a few days or even a week off and see if your motivation returns. Alternatively, you may just need some time away from intense training or your specific sport. Try swapping up your regular workouts for nature hikes, new or fun learning-style classes, or a friendly game of tennis/frisbee/pickup basketball/something totally different.

10. You Were Making So Much Progress… Then Hit a Plateau.

Have you been working as hard as you possibly can, yet you can’t seem to improve your speed, strength or overall athletic performance?

Congratulations: you’ve officially plateaued.

Instead of pushing harder, you may want to think about giving your body a break, since a constant state of plateau is one of the main indicators of overtraining.

How to Prevent Overtraining

While there’s no one-size-fits all predictor of how much exercise is too much (everyone will be different) there are some steps you can take to prevent overtraining.

Here are the most important ones:

Take a little extra time off every so often. Some people in the fitness world strongly believe you should take an entire week off of training every few months or so to let your body recuperate.

I’ve never actually done this—I’d go crazy with pent up energy if I tried—but it could be worth trying if you’re experiencing multiple symptoms of overtraining.

Alternatively, take a few days off of intense training and do some active rest day activities instead.

Replenish your body’s fluids. Drink lots and lots of fluids, including fluids with electrolytes and potassium.

Water, coconut water, cherry juice, and electrolyte-enhanced sports drinks are all good choices. If it’s hot out or you’re sweating more than normal, you’ll need even more fluids.

Prioritize recovery. While it’s important to work hard while training, it’s equally as important to let your body properly recover.

Take care of sore muscles with muscle recovery methods that actually work. And make sure you’re foam rolling and stretching on a regular basis.

Sleep. While most people (myself included) would prefer to go with as little sleep as possible in order to accomplish more in a day, sleep is our body’s prime time to recover, and shorting yourself of it puts you at a high risk for overtraining.

So make sure you get seven to eight hours of sleep each night, and take a cat nap when you feel the need.

Your body will thank you for it.

7 Signs to Tell If You’re Overtraining

If you’re in the middle of a vigorous training program, you can’t afford to be sidelined by injury, pain and fatigue.

However, if you’re not careful, you may overwork your body and fall victim to a range of symptoms that may stop your training routine in its tracks. Keep your eyes open for these 7 signs of overtraining to avoid interrupting your progress while you recover from your injuries.

1. Sore Muscles for Extended Periods

Waking up with sore muscles is not unusual after a day of vigorous exercise. If your muscles remain sore for more than a day, however, they may be overworked. Continuing to exercise vigorously while your muscles scream for relief won’t help you achieve your goals and may even lead to an injury.

2. Reduced Health

Your overall health and diet play a critical role in your ability to ward off illnesses. If you’ve overworked yourself, however, then your body’s resources will be devoted to recovering from your training instead of preventing sickness. If you’ve noticed that you seem to be getting sick more often and have a longer recovery period with each illness, you might be overdoing things in the gym.

3. Feeling Sluggish

Sluggishness can be caused by a number of factors, including poor sleep and stress from work. However, failing to give your body enough rest between workouts can also make you feel sluggish and fatigued. A good exercise program that pushes you without overworking your body will leave you feeling energized instead of exhausted.

4. Lack of Motivation

If getting up off the couch for an afternoon run seems as daunting as climbing Mount Everest, your mind and body might be feeling stressed from your workout regime. Taking a break or temporarily switching to a different exercise activity may help you rebuild your motivation.

5. Changes in Sleep Habits

Your sleep habits can help you determine if your body is stressed from too much exercise. Some individuals become overstimulated from too much training and experience difficulty in falling asleep. In other cases, you may find yourself habitually oversleeping. You may also notice that you long for your bed even after a full night of sleep.

6. Mood Changes

Your body and your exercise habits can influence your mental condition. If you’re suddenly feeling more anxious and agitated, your body may be suffering from overtraining. In addition, you may also feel more irritable and struggle to concentrate on important tasks, including work and hobbies.

7. Increase in Injuries

Repeatedly stressing your muscles without rest doesn’t give your body enough time to repair the minor strains and injuries that naturally accumulate while you train. Eliminating rest days may cause these small injuries to grow into major problems. In addition, overexertion can aggravate old injuries.

Overworking your body with your workout regime can make you feel tired and sore. If you notice any signs that indicate that you’ve pushed your body too hard, it’s time to take a break or change your workout program.

Overexercising: What It Means and How to Know When to Stop

Moderate exercise is key to a workout routine that makes you feel energized, clear-minded, and fit.

But a culture with a “more is better” motto can make it difficult to remember that too much exercise can actually make you less healthy over time. We talked to several experts who broke down common signs you might be overexercising or experiencing burnout.

Read on for their advice on how to enjoy workouts, while giving your body a break.

What’s the difference between overexercising and burnout?

“Burnout means you are either overtraining physically or mentally,” says Aaptiv trainer Candice Cunningham. “It can be caused by something as simple as not taking any rest days to having no motivation to workout.” You might also feel constantly fatigued, hit an exercise plateau, or find yourself bored during each and every workout.

Aaptiv has stretching workouts that can help you get the most from your rest day. Check them out in app today.

Burnout is normal, and can typically be avoided by keeping workouts to a few days a week with plenty of rest in between. On the other hand, over-exercising marks something a bit more serious.

“When your body exercises, cellular damage occurs,” explains Dr. David A. Greuner, cardiovascular surgeon and Surgical Director at NYC Surgical Associates.

“This is because you are training to some degree past your comfort zone, which results in your body adapting to become stronger. So, for a time after exercise, you’ll typically feel sore, or fatigued. Your body then needs time to rebuild the damage to become stronger. If you cause a significant amount of stress to your body while it has not had time to repair itself, overtraining occurs.”

Clinical Psychologist Dr. Barbara Greenberg notes burnout and over-exercising can exist separately, but occasionally over-exercising can cause burnout. And that’s exactly when she recommends reevaluating your exercise habits.

“You know you are over-exercising when you stop paying attention to what your body is telling you (aches and pains) and continue to exercise hard despite that,” she explains. “A conscientious and thoughtful exerciser pays attention to signals and feedback from the body and the mind. An over-exerciser tunes out feedback from these sources.”

What are the common signs of overexercising?

According to Greta Angert, a Beverly Hills-based psychotherapist, the most common signal that you may be working out too much involves feeling like you have to work out on a daily basis.

Other signs of overexercising include:

-Canceling plans with friends or family because you have to exercise
-Exercising when feeling fatigued or sick
-Constantly thinking about exercise
-Logging your run times, exercise routine, or calories burned
-Feeling guilty when unable to exercise
-Exercising against doctor’s advice

Cunningham suggests paying attention to the quality of your ongoing workouts as well. So, look for things like:

-No motivation
-More fatigued
-Lower performance
-Trouble sleeping
-Restlessness
-No progress even after adjusting your workout more than once

“Typically, you will feel very under the weather, and very fatigued,” shares Dr. Greuner.

“Muscle soreness that lasts longer than expected, or muscles that were not worked out that are also sore, are signs your body likely needs a break. In rare instances, overtraining can bring on a condition called rhabdomyolysis. Rhabdomyolysis is a potentially serious condition in which damaged skeletal muscle breaks down rapidly. This can lead to symptoms like severe muscle pains, weakness, vomiting, and confusion, and could eventually lead to kidney failure.”

Is overexercising a “disorder”?

Well, yes and no. Angert says true exercise addiction, a level up from overexercising, is a real disorder which requires treatment by a trained mental health professional.

The good news? Exercising everyday is not necessarily problematic. “Exercise can be a wonderful outlet for stress and can help with depression and anxiety,” explains Dr. Greenberg. “The feeling of having to exercise only becomes a problem when it interferes with other healthy aspects of life, when an individual feels compelled to exercise despite being injured or when body weight becomes low and unhealthy.”

Like anything else, exercise is great in moderation, and only an issue when done in excess.

Have you seen Aaptiv’s newest workout releases yet?

What are good tips for recovering from a period of overexercising?

First things first: rest.

“We all have different bodies, and we all respond differently to training styles,” says Cunningham. “Still, you always want to take rest day.”

Adequate rest time keeps your metabolism and hormone levels on par, and lets your body repair itself, she explains. Cunningham also reinforces the importance of nutrition, so beware of exercising every day in combination with cutting too many calories or macronutrients.

Dr. Greuner advocates for rest as well, plus higher protein intake (this protein tastes the best), excellent hydration, and sleep. And Dr. Greenberg tells clients to view over-exercising as an opportunity to reassess your fitness routine as a whole, or perhaps engage in other activities such as meditation, reading, or listening to music.

Above all, give yourself permission to take a break—exercise isn’t an obligation, it’s a chance to move your body in a fun, enjoyable way to build strength and reduce stress. When you’re ready to get back at it again, give Aaptiv’s workouts a try.

8 signs you’re overdoing it at the gym

That you feel tired sometimes is fine, but running short of breath isn’t… 
RUNNING SHORT OF BREATH
Being out of breath during exercise is fine, but if you find yourself panting more often than not while working out, this indicates that you are overdoing it. When you take a break or pause, your panting should slow down within 60 seconds. Being unable to catch your breath means you pushed yourself too hard. In that case, it takes longer to recover, but your body goes back to functioning normally.
However, if you experience additional symptoms such as swelling in your feet and ankles, high fever, cough, chills, blue fingertips, or wheezing you may want to consult your doctor as these could be signs of a heart attack.
CHEST DISCOMFORT
Aside of the panting, if your chest feels uncomfortable after a strenuous exercise regime, do not take it lightly. Chest discomfort is a major indicator of a heart attack or angina (a blockage in the blood vessels of the heart that reduces blood and oxygen flow to the heart). Note: Not all chest pain is the same; it can feel like burning, stabbing, or tightness.
NAUSEA AND VOMITING
It should be obvious that throwing up after or during exercise is not a desirable result. If you push yourself so hard that you throw up, you may want to reassess your regimen at the gym. Getting nauseous from your workout can also indicate that you are dehydrated or experiencing heat exhaustion. Heat exhaustion can be treated with rest in a cool place but, if ignored, it can lead to heat stroke, which can cause organ damage, and, sometimes, death.
FEVER
Exercising while sick is not advisable, especially if you have fever. If the fever is over 100.5 degree, you should not work out. You put yourself at risk of viral myocarditis. Viral myocarditis is inflammation of the heart muscle and can be fatal. Evidence suggests that exercising while feverish increases the risk of developing this dangerous disorder as well as dehydration and overheating.
SORE MUSCLES
You may also experience some joint soreness during your workout or half an hour later. Beyond that, you may want to be more cautious. If the next morning you’re having joint pain that you can attribute or associate to your workout or activity the day before, you’ve probably pushed yourself too hard. Also, if the soreness is getting in the way of normal daily functioning, you should give it some rest.
DECREASE IN PERFORMANCE
If you are working out religiously, you should see your performance improve or at least stay the same. If you feel unusually exhausted by your usual workout, you might be overtraining. So, when you are working out, try to focus on quality, not quantity. Those additional reps of the same form are not nearly as beneficial as you think.
MOOD SWINGS
If your physical performance is not entirely on track, there could be a chance that you may feel a slightly mentally drained as well. While physical activity is often linked to decreases in depression and anxiety, overtraining can increase irritability, and moodiness. A common sentiment amongst athletes who are overtrained is that they lose their competitive spirit.
STRANGE SLEEP PATTERNS
Being active during the day can help us rest well at night. If you are overtraining, the opposite may occur.
Pushing your body too hard can cause restlessness, insomnia or oversleeping. If that is the case, slow down at the gym and your sleeping pattern will return to normal.

September 18, 2015 – 15:45 BST hellomagazine.com Lorraine Furmedge, Fitness First PT Ambassador shares some of the most common mistakes people make at the gym, and what you should be doing instead.

Millions of people sign up to the gym in a bid to get fit, lose weight and tone up, but often the workouts we do can be ineffective and even cause injury due to some common mistakes. Lorraine Furmedge, Fitness First PT Ambassador shares some of the most common mistakes people make at the gym, and what you should be doing instead.

Overusing the treadmill – focus on effort rather than time

“Assuming that you are using the treadmill for an aerobic workout then you really don’t need to be on there any longer than 20 – 30 minutes. If you are using it to help you train for an event then that’s a different story and you should be following a planned programme to ensure you are ‘event ready’!

The best way to get the most out of your treadmill workout is to think about the effort you are putting in rather than being concerned on time… you want to get off at the end of your session hot, sweaty and breathing hard, but still be able to talk. That’s a much better rule of thumb as that way you will know you will have made the most of your time on the treadmill.”

VIEW GALLERY

Skipping weights due to fear of bulking up

“It is worth noting that it’s quite hard for women to ‘bulk up’ as we don’t have a lot of natural testosterone in our bodies, and it this hormone that helps to bulk muscles as well as a planned high protein diet.

If you are looking to tone and shape your muscles then you want to go for low weights, high reps. Aim for two to three sets of 12 to 16 reps per exercise. That way you tire the muscles out so that encourages them to change shape but not build muscle.

If you are looking to build muscle (look bigger) then you want to use heavier weights and lower reps, Aiming for two to three sets of six – eight reps per exercise.”

Overdoing it at the gym

“Assuming you are following a programme that includes aerobic (CV – Cardiovascular) and Resistance (Weights) then by the end of that programme you should be hot, sweaty and tired. At this point if you carry on you will be putting yourself at risk of injury.”

VIEW GALLERY

Spending too much time on cardio exercises

“As above, again assuming you are following an inclusive programme, there is no need to be in the gym for hours and hours. You will work a lot more efficiently if you follow a programme and ensure you are giving everything your full effort and attention, 45 minutes to an hour is plenty, ideally at least 3 times a week. Think of your effort levels on a scale of 1 – 10… one you are not doing anything to ten you simply couldn’t work any harder… Each workout you want to finish between an eight and nine.

Not cooling down and stretching after a workout

“Lots of people think that they don’t need to warm up or cool down and stretch after a workout… you do.

A warm up, which needs to be no more than 3-6 minutes, allows your brain and body to prepare for the workout to come. By warming your body up slowly your brain releases extra hormones into your muscles and joints to help prevent injury.

A cool down and stretch at the end of your workout enables your body temperature and heart rate to return to normal as well as reducing the rate at which blood is pumped round your body steadily as well as encouraging any lactic acid (It’s lactic acid that gives that ‘burning’ feeling in your muscles) that has developed to be flushed out of the system.

If you simply just stop, you risk the blood that is moving very fast round your body to go drain away from your heart towards your legs and this can make you feel unwell to say the least and your muscles to feel sore the next day.”

Overtraining: these are the nine signs you’re pushing too hard in the gym

Feeling as if your fitness progress has hit a stumbling block? You may be overdoing it

Challenging yourself in the gym is good. But there’s a fine line between an intense workout regime, and overtraining.

Overtraining is completely counterproductive when it comes to achieving your fitness goals, regardless of whether you’re working out to build muscle, lose weight or just improve general health.

Many exercise scientists assert that overtraining should actually be referred to as ‘under-recovery’.

Butler University academic Adrian Shepard says overtraining happens when you’re “not allowing your body the opportunity to adjust, adapt and recuperate in response to the training regimen you’re taking part in.”

The clear signs of overtraining

So, how do you know when you’re overdoing it in the gym?

According to Shepard, the common signs include:

  • Decrease in performance
  • Increased resting heart rate
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Muscle fatigue
  • Disturbed sleep patterns
  • Gastro-intestinal disturbances
  • Depression
  • Increased irritability
  • Apathy and low self-esteem

All of these symptoms can halt your progress, and also affect your everyday life. Nevertheless, if you are experiencing a combination of the above, there are ways around it.

How to avoid overtraining

Shepard suggests these three steps to avoid overtraining:

  1. “Gradually work your way into exercise, especially if you are a beginner, are recovering from an injury, or have been physically inactive for some time
  2. “Ask staff of your fitness centre to take you through equipment and facility orientations. You’ll learn what equipment is available, how it works and what to use for desired results
  3. “If your fitness facility offers them, schedule a fitness assessment to determine your current physical health status and fitness level. This will be your baseline measurement for evaluating future progress. The assessment also identifies any potential health and injury risks in training, and helps in developing your personalised exercise program and goals.”

If you’re a personal trainer or fitness instructor on the other side of the gym floor, there are also ways you can help people who seem to be overtraining.

Shepard says: “Befriend them. Get to know what they’re doing and why they’re doing it. Find out what they are training for. Do they realise that what they’re doing is harmful to their bodies?”

Suppose you’re looking to build muscle mass, for example. Your workouts only need to be around 45 minutes to an hour in length. Growth is all about recovery, too. Sufficient sleep and plenty of protein will do more for your progress than battering your body to bits for two hours.

Similarly, if training to lose weight you’ll need to put the onus on recovery.

Carbs provide your body with energy in the form of glycogen. According to the British Journal of Sports Medicine, low-carb diets are more likely to lead to symptoms of fatigue and overtraining.

“Glycogen depletion leads to rapid fatigue, particularly after the anaerobic threshold is reached, and may predispose to more prolonged fatigue.

“Thus, a poor diet with insufficient carbohydrates to meet training demands, as may occur when an athlete is attempting to lose weight, will increase the difficulty in coping with a particular programme.”

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We all know that getting your sweat on is an essential component of a healthy lifestyle. Regular physical activity improves your health, endurance, muscular strength, as well as alleviates stress, and gives you that much-needed dose of energy to get you through your day.

Those feel-good endorphins can leave many of us wanting more to the point that we might be in danger of overtraining. Overtraining happens when we train our bodies more than what can recover from, to the point where performance declines, or even risk injury or illness.

Bottom line: we’re working out way more than we should be.

So how much exercise is too much exercise? In order to answer that question, Organic Authority turned to personal trainer Chris Divecchio, founder of Premier Mind & Body studio gym in L.A.

What Is Too Much Exercise?

“Everyone’s fitness level is different, but not incorporating any rest days is too much exercise,” says Divecchio. “Unless you’re a professional athlete being coached and monitored, training for multiple hours per day, seven days a week, is setting themselves up for burnout.”

What does burnout look like? Often it comes up as symptoms of fatigue, hitting a plateau, chronic pain or injury, and interference of lifestyle — meaning, you’re interrupting your daily life in order to work out.

Why Rest Days Are So Important

Although nothing beats that workout high, it’s important to remember that rest days are just as necessary in your exercise routine to help build and strengthen your muscles.

“Working out is only one part of the formula to getting into and staying in great shape,” says Divecchio. “Muscle tissue is broken down during training sessions but the real growth happens during the recovery phase with nutrition and rest.”

Another good reason for rest days? Avoiding increasing your cortisol levels.

“Cortisol is the stress hormone that gets released into the body via two pathways: physical stress, and mental and emotional stress,” says Divecchio. “While some people use fitness as a way to mentally decompress, they forget that they are still adding physical stress to the body and the central nervous system. Overtraining can elevate cortisol levels and lead to symptoms of fatigue, weight gain — elevated cortisol prevents the body from dropping fat — and even depression and illness.”

However, Divecchio notes that by incorporating strategic rest days, you allow your body to dispel toxins and help strengthen the immune system.

How Often Should You Exercise Then?

The U.S. health guidelines state that most adults need at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity per week, and should perform muscle-strengthening exercises on two or more days each week.

Divecchio’s own spin on the guidelines includes HIIT and weight training.

“Three days a week of weight training for 60 minutes and three days a week of 20 minute HIIT cardio is reasonable for the average individual,” he says. “The 60 min of weight training gives you plenty of opportunities to hit each muscle group throughout the week without overtraining, and the 20 min HIIT cardio is a quick effective way to burn fat without spending mindless hours on the treadmill.”

The Takeaway

As Divecchio notes, while exercise has many positive benefits of improving health and wellness, “exercise can also become a convenient way to avoid dealing with an underlying issue. It’s important to try and strike a balance and find a way to make fitness part of your lifestyle and not the only thing in your life.”

Related on Organic Authority

Can Exercise Make Your Heart Younger? Experts Say Yes
Working Out and Getting Fatter? How to Eat to Lose Weight
5 Signs Your Exercise Addiction Might Make You Obsess Over Fitness Trackers and Nutrition Apps

Most of us wish we exercised more. After all, fewer than half of us get the recommended amount of physical activity, and we know it. But is it possible to get too much of a good thing?

It turns out that the answer is yes. Exercise provides many health benefits, but at some point working out too hard or too long increases the risk of injury and other adverse effects. That usually only happens with intense exercise, like training for marathons or endurance activities. Such challenging activities are perfectly fine, maybe even laudable endeavors, but if you’re looking for optimal health benefits, research suggests that more moderate workouts are generally the way to go.

True, it’s a problem relatively few Americans need to worry about, since inactivity is far more common and also more harmful. And not all the research on “extreme” exercise has found increased risks — but overdoing exercise can be a problem.

Here’s a look at some of the latest research, a guide to help you search for the sweet spot in your personal fitness.

What do the data show?

In a British study of more than a million healthy middle-aged women in Circulation, those who were physically active at least once a week were less likely to have heart attacks, strokes or venous thromboembolic events (blood clots in the legs or lungs) over a nine-year period than inactive women. Moreover, any type of physical activity, includ­ing gardening and housework, had pretty much the same effects as strenuous activity. But what made head­lines was that the women who exercised every day didn’t benefit more than the less frequent exercisers. In fact, they were at greater risk. The women who exercised at least two times a week, and no more than six times, had the lowest cardiovascular risk, compared to infrequent or daily exercisers.

Similarly, a large Danish study in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, which compared the mortality rates of 1,098 healthy joggers and 3,950 sedentary people, found that those who did light to moderate running (in terms of pace, duration and frequency) were less likely to die over a 12-year period than non-exercisers. But strenuous joggers — fast pace, more than 2 1/2 hours a week, or more than three times a week — had a mortality rate similar to sedentary people. The researchers concluded: “…higher doses of running are not only unnecessary but may also erode some of the remarkable longevity benefits conferred by lower doses of run­ning.”

Other studies have found that sedentary people are at higher risk than daily exercisers, but moderate exercisers fared better than both. For instance, a German study in the journal Heart looked at 1,038 people who had stable coronary heart disease and found that both those who were sedentary and those who exercised every day (or did more than about 15 hours of strenuous activity a week were more likely to die over a 10-year period than those who exercised several times a week — but the risk was greatest for the couch potatoes.

Deciphering the finer points

All of these studies were observational — not randomized, controlled studies — so they can dem­onstrate only correlation, not causation. Also in all these studies, there were differences in the way activity levels were categorized, and a relatively small percentage of people exercised at the highest levels. So the studies leave many questions unanswered.

Notably, is there something about people who overdo strenuous endurance exercise that harms their health? Perhaps they are overly competitive or compulsive and tend to overdo other things as well. In contrast, do people who exercise moderately also do other things in moderation, which is generally a healthy way to live? Researchers try to control for such factors, but the likelihood that some such factors are not identi­fied or adjusted for remains a concern.

How might excessive endurance exercise harm the body, especially when done every day? Besides increasing the risk of injuries, it may depress the immune system and increase inflammatory processes. Taking off a day or two a week gives the body time to recover from the stress of exercise.

Also, some studies of endurance ath­letes, usually marathoners, have found coronary changes that may increase the risk of arrhythmias, sudden death and other problems.

Keep in mind, however, that running and other aerobic exercise — no matter how strenuously they’re done — help improve many cardiovascular risk factors, such as blood pressure, cholesterol, and body weight. Thus it’s possible that “high doses” of exercise can benefit some aspects of cardiovascular health while negatively impacting others.

What’s the bottom line? “Too much exercise” varies from person to person. Some of us can exercise strenu­ously for decades and not suffer any major physical or cardiovascular problems, while others are more susceptible to them, partly for genetic reasons, but also possibly because of differences in training.

There’s no way to say exactly what is the upper limit of exercise for everyone. Generally, any exercise is better than none, and more exercise is usually better within reason. But you certainly don’t have to keep intensifying your exercise regimen to stay healthy. For most people, moderate exercise is the sweet spot.

For more on this topic, see:

Berkeley Wellness: 9 Safe Exercise Strategies

Berkeley Wellness: 5 Reasons to Get Some Exercise

Follow all of the Expert Voices issues and debates — and become part of the discussion — on Facebook, Twitter and Google+. The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the publisher. This version of the article was originally published on Live Science.

When you finally get off the couch and experience your first runner’s high, you may want to run forever, but is it possible to get too much exercise?

The answer is yes, according to a recent review of research by a team led by cardiologist Dr. James O’Keefe. In some ways, exercise is like a medication that can be used to prevent and treat many chronic diseases. As with prescription drugs, though, it’s possible to “overdose” on exercise.

The researchers, who published their work in the Mayo Clinic Proceedings, looked at studies of people who competed in marathons, iron man triathlons, ultramarathons, and long distance bicycle races.

Overall, these endurance athletes fared better than sedentary couch potatoes—living seven years longer, on average. However, when the researchers focused only on people who took endurance training to its extreme, not only did the benefits of exercise diminish, but the excessive activity started to take its toll.

During an extreme workout like a marathon, the heart has to pump five times the amount of blood that it does while someone is at rest. This excessive exertion can cause short-term changes in the heart and large arteries.

Without additional training, the body usually returns to normal within one week. Repeated exercise at an extreme level, however, can cause scarring of the heart that increases the risk of irregular heartbeats. This can lead to more serious conditions later on.

The researchers are quick to point out that exercise is still important, especially if you want to feel better and live longer. Most of the benefits of exercise, however, happen at a moderate level—30 to 60 minutes a day.

If you are a runner, that’s about 10 to 15 miles a week, plenty of miles to get a runner’s high, but not so much that you start to lose your healthy edge.

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8 signs you’re working out too hard

  • If you’re tired more than usual and dreading your next workout, you might be working too hard in the gym.
  • Chronic injuries and excessive soreness both point to a need to back off from your intense workouts.
  • Restlessness, insomnia, and feeling sick also indicate you may be spending too much time exercising and not enough time recovering.
  • Visit INSIDER’s homepage for more stories.

If you’re yawning between sets, decreasing the amount of weight you lift, and feel like you’re constantly battling a cold, you might be working too hard in the gym. Training at too high of intensity or too often can result in overtraining, which can trigger adverse side effects that indicate you’re working too hard.

While this may take some time to happen, ultimately, if you’re putting in too many hours with minimal rest, your body will shut down. So, how do you know if you’re working too hard in the gym? INSIDER asked three fitness trainers to share eight common signs to look for that indicate you may be overtraining.

You’re experiencing a decline in fitness levels

A significant sign you’re working too hard in the gym is seeing a significant decline in athletic performance while exercising.

“Your body will feel different from day to day, but not being able to maintain the pace you once could on the treadmill or not being able to lift as much weight on a consistent basis, are both warning signs,” said iFit trainer, Mecayla Froerer. She told INSIDER that while exercising daily is generally acceptable, you need to monitor the intensity of those workouts and watch for any red flags that point to overtraining.

In fact, she said never increase your workload by more than 10% each week. “Increasing weights, reps, sets, and frequency of workouts too often can quickly lead you down the path of injury and fatigue,” she explained.

Additionally, increasing cardio volume (especially road running) too quickly can lead to issues that take a long time to heal and can take you out for a full race season. “Monitoring your time under tension, as well as your intensity during that time is a great way to ensure you stay healthy without exercising too hard,” said Froerer.

Working out too hard can actually ruin your progress. Luc Forsyth/Getty Images

You’re lacking any motivation to exercise

We all know there are mornings when staying in bed sounds a lot better than heading to the gym. But if you’re experiencing a lack of desire to work out, this may be a sign that you need to decrease the intensity and time at the gym. “Pushing too hard every single day will actually do more harm than good,” explained Froerer.

When in doubt, alter your workout to how you’re feeling that day and don’t be afraid to take a day off (or two!) if you need it.

You’re getting sick more often

Being physically active can help boost your immune system and ward off illness. But if you do too much of it, exercise can also cause you to be sick more often. Some signs to watch for that may indicate you’re working too hard in the gym include an increase in the number of colds you’re getting, illnesses lasting longer than usual, and an increase in headaches.

This is a great reminder not to push yourself when you’re feeling sick, too.

You’re sore more than usual

Waking up to sore muscles the day after a workout is to be expected. But if you’re feeling sore for days on end, it might be time to take it back a notch.

“It’s okay to be sore or experience DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness),” said Manning Sumner, NSPA Certified Trainer with RSP Nutrition. In fact, he told INSIDER that DOMS can occur hours or sometimes days later. But if you’re so sore you can barely walk or sit down the next day, or in the days that follow, Manning said you more than likely overdid it.

You’re having trouble sleeping

Having trouble sleeping? Your workout could be to blame. David Prado Perucha/

Similar to the protective factor exercise has on your immune system, it can also increase your quality of sleep. But, it can also turn on you, and cause you to experience insomnia and restless sleep. If you’re lying awake at night tossing and turning, it might be a good idea to assess your current fitness routine.

Another thing to pay attention to, said Sumner, is an inability to get comfortable at night. This can result in restlessness and insomnia. That’s why he recommended spreading out your max intensity sessions about 72 hours apart with lower intensity days in between. Sleep is the best form of recovery so make sure you get at least seven to nine hours each night.

You’re dealing with chronic or nagging injuries

Exercise results in sore muscles, right? Yes, but if you’re experiencing injuries that interfere with your workouts or daily life, you might be pushing too hard in the gym. Some signs that you really shouldn’t ignore explained Aaptiv master trainer, Ackeem Emmons are lower back pain, aching joints, or a lack of mobility. A good rule of thumb is any injury that doesn’t get better with rest should be checked out by a doctor.

You’re experiencing stress, depression, anxiety, or agitation

Are you snapping at your partner about trivial things or feeling sad and anxious more than usual? Just like missing workouts can trigger an emotional response, so can training too hard. If you’re spending too many hours pushing weights and sprinting on the treadmill, you may end up feeling agitated, stressed, anxious or depressed.

Take care of your mental health as well as your physical health by taking it easy when you need to. If you still can’t shake that low feeling, it could be time to speak to a mental health professional.

You’re tired and fatigued more than usual

Excessive fatigue is a major red flag that needs to be addressed. Emmons said if your energy is low and you’re unable to function on a regular day-to-day basis, you’re most likely training too hard and not taking enough time to recover between sessions. Plus, if you’re feeling decreased energy levels with your workouts, that’s also a sign you’re working too hard.

“Training is supposed to push you, but it’s not supposed to break you.” To help your energy levels, Emmons recommended having a plan, which includes mapping out your workouts over the course of a week. “With a plan, you can keep tabs on the frequency and intensity of your workouts, your recovery, and your progress,” he explained.

Is there such thing as too much exercise?

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