How much exercise is too much: that is a question many people ask themselves. In order to answer that question, there are some things everyone should know.
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According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 80 percent of Americans don't get enough exercise. We hear all the time that we need to be more active. But what happens when we go overboard on training? Is there such a thing as too much when it comes to working out? It turns out the answer is yes.
So how much exercise is too much?
Exercise guidelines tell us the minimum amount that we should be exercising, but there is currently no real limit set for the maximum to show us how much exercise is too much.
However, even without max guidelines, the research clearly indicates that there is a point at which working out too much starts harming rather than helping your health.
We all know that regular exercise is highly effective for increasing longevity and cardiovascular health. It also combats chronic diseases like obesity, Type 2 diabetes, and stroke. But the research shows that overdoing it, especially endurance exercise, is linked to enlarged arteries, increases in depression and anxiety, and a pathologic structural remodeling of the heart.
And that's just scratching the surface.
How Much Exercise Is Too Much?
Some athletes who wrestle with the question, "How much exercise is too much?" are people who run marathons, ultramarathons, and Ironman triathlons. Studies show that some of them who train too much can end up having some problems with short-term adverse cardiovascular effects.
One study found that in a group of patients diagnosed with coronary artery disease, the people who exercised beyond 60 minutes a day saw stiffening of their blood vessels and a decrease in their antioxidant levels. To put that into some perspective, the people in the study who exercised for 60 minutes a day or less actually found their circulation improved and they saw a reduction in the free radicals.
In another similar study, they found an extremely high rate of myocardial fibrosis among long-term endurance athletes. In that study, researchers found that 50 percent of the athletes who went through cardiac magnetic resonance imaging showed signs of hardening of the heart cells.
The heart cells hardening is thought to play a part in irregular heartbeats, and can even precipitate sudden cardiac arrest.
On top of that, runners who log in 15 miles a week or less benefit from nearly a 20 percent reduction in mortality rates. Not bad, right? But believe it or not, the people who run more than 25 miles per week have the same risk of death as couch potatoes who don't exercise at all.
So when you ask me how much exercise is too much, I would start by saying that running more than 25 miles a week is too much.
When you're trying to determine how much exercise is too much, it's important to note that it will be different for each person depending on many factors. Some of those factors include age, lifestyle, and health history.
The Dangers Of Too Much Exercise
As a personal trainer for more than 20 years, I always say that some exercise is better than no exercise. But the truth is more is not necessarily better. There is a tipping point where too much training becomes detrimental to your health.
One of the dangers of too much exercise is that you can change the structure and function of your heart along with its vessels. You can also end up with irregular heart rhythms or even an enlarged heart. A bigger heart may sound like a good thing. But it's not. The truth is an enlarged heart is less efficient at pumping your blood, removing waste, and delivering oxygen than a normal-sized heart.
Both running too much and running too little lead to higher death rates. The key is finding that sweet spot. And the ideal amount of exercise may be a lot less than you might think.
14 Signs That You're Exercising Too Much
So how do you know how much exercise is too much for you? Well, these 14 troubling signs are good indicators.
- You can no longer perform at the same level
- You need more prolonged periods of rest
- You're super tired or fatigued all the time
- Irritability and mood swings
- Your limbs always feel like lead or are very sore
- Overuse injuries
- Loss of motivation
- You get sick more often
- Weight loss or decreased appetite
- Increased resting heart rate
- You've hit a plateau that doesn't break even after rest or reduced training
If you have several of these symptoms and you've been working out a whole lot, then that is a good indication that you need to take some time off to rest. A week or two off from exercising will often do the trick.
However, if you find that you're still suffering from these symptoms even after taking a couple of weeks off you need to contact your doctor.
Ways To Avoid Overtraining
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There are some ways to avoid overtraining when you're not sure how much exercise is too much. One of the things you can do is to eat enough calories to account for your level of activity. If you don't eat enough, your body will burn muscle instead of fat. You don't want that.
Another thing you can do is to be sure you're drinking enough water. You should also try to get a solid eight hours of sleep every night.
For another thing, you are also more likely to get an overuse injury if you're working out in extreme heat or cold. You should try to avoid that.
If you're feeling sick or super stressed it's a good idea to cut back on your workouts. And perhaps the best thing you can do to avoid overtraining is to get enough rest. Your body needs that rest in between workouts. A good rule of thumb is to always rest for at least six hours between workouts. It's also essential to take at least one full day off from exercise every week.
Why Rest Is So Important
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Believe it or not, resting is just as important as working out for your health and fitness. Rest is part of the process.
When you exercise, especially when you do strength training, you break down your body tissue. Resistance training causes microscopic tears in the muscle. When those tears heal, that's how you get stronger. But you only get that healing when you rest.
Resting also allows your body to replenish your energy stores along with repairing damaged tissue. There are no two ways about it. Rest is essential.
Another reason it is so important is that it helps to prevent injuries. If you're not getting enough rest, you're also likely to compromise your immune system. If you have a cold that you just can't get rid of, that could be an indication of overtraining. On top of that, resting is incredible for your mental edge.
Do you want to prevent burnout? Then you have to rest.
Jumper's knee is one common overuse injury that occurs when the patellar tendon in the knee joint gets pulled on repeatedly. That causes inflammation and pain, especially during jumping exercises. Another common injury is shin splints. Shin splints occur from excessive running, particularly if you're running on concrete.
Spondylolisthesis and Spondylolysis are two lower back injuries caused by overuse. These injuries are common in football players, gymnasts, and ice skaters.
Sever's disease is another overuse injury that happens after repetitive jumping and running. Sever's disease causes severe pain in the heel when the Achilles tendon continually pulls on the heel bone.
Knees are another area that often suffers from overtraining injuries. Sinding-Larsen-Johansson disease is an example of that when the tendon in your knee separates from the bone. And yes, it's as painful as it sounds.
Osteochondritis dissecans is an overuse injury that causes pain and swelling in the joints. This injury occurs when a piece of cartilage in the knee, ankle, or elbow joint separates from the joint surface.
When we're talking about how much exercise is too much, if you've got any of these injuries, that is a good indication that you need to cut back on your workouts.
Here are the answers to a few more related questions.
How Much Physical Activity Is Enough?
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services put out new physical activity guidelines this year that say that adults should get 150 to 300 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity every week.
If you increase your intensity to vigorous, the guidelines say you should only do 75 to 150 minutes of cardio every week. Adults should also do strength training at least two times per week, working all of the major muscle groups at least twice. A
s I mentioned earlier, your body needs at least one full day of rest every week. In my experience, you get better results if you take two days off every week.
How Much Rest Do I Need Between Workouts?
If you're doing strength training, you should wait 48 to 72 hours before you work on the same muscle group again.
Large muscle groups like your quads and hamstrings need 72 hours of recovery time. Smaller muscle groups need less recovery time, but you should still wait at least 48 hours before you work them again.
When Is It Time To Call The Doc?
If you're feeling the warning signs of overuse even after taking two weeks off from exercising, then it's time to call the doctor.
Another sign that you should talk to a professional is if you feel out of control about how much you're exercising or eating. That could be an indication of exercise compulsion. You should also consult a physician if you're getting overuse injuries.
Answered: How Much Exercise Is Too Much
The answer is, it depends on how sore you are today.
According to the American Council on Exercise, you should not work out again if you're still super sore from your last workout. If you do, you are risking getting an overuse injury. When you're very sore, you also have impaired coordination, a shortened range of motion, and less shock absorption.
In addition to that, when you work out when you're really sore, you are putting more stress on your tendons and ligaments.
When we talk about how much exercise is too much, you have to consider how sore you are in the days after your workout. Trying to work out again even though you're in agony is a good indicator that you're exercising too much.
On the other hand, if you're just a little sore, then exercise will actually help with the soreness. Sometimes one of the best things you can do when you're mildly sore is to do some type of cardio. The cardio will get your blood flowing and will help to flush out some of the lactic acid that's giving you discomfort.