Exercise — How Much Is Too Much?

I recently read an article that tied together working out and mental heath, which was an enlightening thing to see. I’ve already written about how exercise won’t make you happy, but I found it encouraging that there was an actual scientific study to support it.

Much of the study and the analysis of its findings revolved around the fact that those people who exercised reported fewer poor mental health days per month than those who didn’t. What caught my eye, however, and I was glad that they discussed, was that there’s actually too much of a good thing.

If the recommended amount of exercise based on this study (45 min 3-5 times per week) resulted in improved mental health, then even more than that could potentially CURE ALL DEPRESSION AND ANXIETY, right??

What the study found was that there was still some improvement in the group exercising 90 min, but those working out in excess of 90 min or 23 times per month actually experienced worse mental health outcomes. This is because “people who exercise for many hours at a time and who do so frequently may be exhibiting obsessive behaviors associated with poor psychological and emotional outcomes.”

I, as well as many others, can testify that excessive or obsessive exercise does very little to improve your mental health. If anything, for me, my mental health was at one of its lowest levels when I was exercising six days a week and monitoring everything that went in my mouth. I was unhappy with my performance, I was unhappy with my appearance, and I was simply unhappy in general.

While this could be a separate post, I think it’s important to discuss the symptoms of overtraining in case any of you may be considering cutting back on how much you’re doing. Maybe you want to take it a little easier. Here are some of the symptoms that you should look out for. Remember, even if you aren’t experiencing these symptoms, it may be important for you to take a step back now and then — for your health!!

Overtraining

Overtraining occurs when you push your body too far and don’t allow an adequate amount of time for it to rest and rebuild.

The point at which a body will start to suffer symptoms of overtraining is different for every person, so you need to make sure to listen to your body for any signs:

Excessively tired

If you find yourself regularly tired despite getting enough sleep, one of the things to look at is your exercise routine. Not allowing yourself time to rest can lead to an increase in lethargy and sluggishness.

Excessively thirsty

One of the first symptoms of dehydration is excessive thirst. Usually by the time you realize you are thirsty, you’re already dehydrated, so it’s important to always maintain an adequate intake of water. Overtraining can lead to more frequent episodes of dehydration, so if you’re continually thirsty you may need to take a look at your training regimen.

More injuries

Overtraining means that your body is working beyond its capacity and it unable to reset and rebuild in an adequate amount of time. Because of the stress placed on the body when it is in this state, you are more likely to sustain injuries than if you allow the appropriate amount of rest.

Lack of motivation

As I’ve said before, there is sometimes too much of a good thing. While you may have been energized and motivated by frequent workouts, pushing yourself too hard for too long can actually have the reverse effect.

Increased sickness

Similar to the increased likelihood of injuries, overtraining can also increase your susceptibility to illnesses. The body is not given enough time to rest, which can eventually lead to a more stressed and suppressed immune system.

Prolonged muscle soreness

It’s normal for a tough workout to leave you feeling sore for 24-48 hours post workout. If your soreness lasts for more than 3 days, however, it could be a sign that you are overtraining. Challenge yourself, but don’t push it so hard that you are out of commission for days in a row. Make sure to leave time for rest when planning your training regimens!

4 comments on “Exercise — How Much Is Too Much?

  1. We were on the same length yesterday, I wrote about this too. Completely agree about the adverse effects of a hyperobsession with exercise. I think a huge problem is living in a culture that normalizes that, and saying exercise is the cure all for everything.

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