There Is Such A Thing As Working Out Too Much
For many of us, scraping by with just enough exercise in a week to be deemed healthy is a challenge. But rare birds exist that face the opposite problem of loving exercise so much that they just can’t take a day off. But rest day is just as important as leg day, according to science.
The American Heart Association recommends that we get in at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity at least 5 days per week for a total of 150 minutes to reap the cardiovascular benefits. But what happens when we push beyond this quota? Like, really really far? It’s difficult to pinpoint the number of weekly fitness minutes that hits the one-too-many mark for a general population, but by listening to our bodies, we can answer the question, “Am I working out too much?” pretty well for ourselves.
Overexercising (or overtraining) can be noticed in several ways. A faster-than-normal heart rate when at rest for an extended period of time is a pretty clear sign. It’s the body’s way of responding to exhaustion, pain, dehydration and electrolyte imbalances. Recovery time ultimately reduces demand on the heart, keeping the critical muscle in our body in proper working order.
And chronic pain is a surefire signal you need a rest day, too. It’s not a bad thing to feel sore after a tough HIIT workout, but feeling pain every day is certainly not ideal. That’s just asking for long-term injuries. To reap the rewards of strength training, limit these tough workouts to two or three days a week and allow the body time to heal itself.
A new review of published studies also found that people who overdo it with exercise might be prone to acute or chronic gut issues. The researchers found that after a person works out for two consecutive hours at a moderate intensity, the cells of their intestines get injured and the gut becomes more leaky, allowing pathogenic endotoxins (which are normally restricted to the intestine) to pass into the bloodstream. Yuck.
And this one probably sounds counterintuitive, but overexercising actually kills our motivation to keep going. Our bodies burn out, and we feel exhausted and irritable. Sometimes even our appetites and sleep quality are negatively impacted. Too much exercise can actually make us anxious and depressed rather than relieve those symptoms.
Strength coach and fitness expert John Gaglione summed it up well when he said, “The more fit and the stronger you become, the more recovery you need.” Otherwise, you run the risk of undoing the benefits of exercise you work so hard to achieve in the first place. It’s that simple.
So if you organize your life around your exercise instead of your exercise around your life, you might be overdoing it. If you get up for that sunrise run every single day regardless of that tinge of pain behind your knee, you might be overdoing it. And if you can’t bear the thought of allotting yourself at least one day a week to just chill, you might be overdoing it. We’re not here to fit shame anyone (we’re clearly not about that life at Swirled), but we do think it’s important to know what risks you run — literally — when you reach extremes with exercise.