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The risks of working out too much

We all know that leading a sedentary lifestyle is bad for our health and that exercise is good for us – but is it possible to work out too much? You’d think the more you exercise, the better; surely if running for an hour three times a week is good for you, then running for two hours six times a week is better? While it might seem logical to assume so, it doesn’t quite work out like that.

 

Exercise causes pain

This is something most people who’ve exercised know only too well. It’s not just limited to planned exercise sessions either – gardening, DIY and even carrying heavy shopping bags can all mean using certain muscles more than we might on a typical day, and so we end up feeling the pain the day after. When it comes to working out, there are two stages of muscular soreness: the “burn” you experience during and immediately after exercise, and delayed onset muscle soreness, which typically kicks in within twenty-four hours. 

The majority of the pain we feel is most likely due to “microtrauma”, which are small tears in the muscle fibres. When it’s given time to recover, your body not only heals those tears but also builds additional muscle tissue in an effort to prevent it happening again. Your body benefits from the process, becoming stronger as a result. Problems can occur, however, when insufficient time is allowed for recovery between exercise sessions, leading these small microtraumas to develop into more major injuries, such as ruptured tendons, torn ligaments or loss of joint function.

Exercise can lead to dehydration

When you exercise you lose fluids, and if you don’t replace them you can experience some pretty unpleasant symptoms, including muscle cramps, headaches, nausea, and dizziness. If you experience these symptoms when exercising, you should stop and drink either some water or a rehydrating sports drink. If you continue to exercise beyond that point, then it can lead to heat exhaustion which is a potentially fatal condition.

Exercise can become an addiction

If you feel compelled to exercise irrespective of the weather, the pain you are in, the illness you’re suffering or the cost to your relationships, then you may be addicted. One definition of addiction is the repetition of a behaviour past the point where it becomes self-injurious. As well as leading to injury, too much exercise can cause depression and exhaustion.

How much exercise is optimum?

It can be hard to define “over-exercise” because not only are we all different from one another, but we can also have differing personal levels of tolerance to exercise depending on illness or injury, stress levels, food intake and many other factors. Signs that your body may be struggling to cope with your exercise regimen include fatigue, muscle pain, aching joints, mood swings and changes in sleep patterns. So how do you get the most from your workouts? These simple tips should help: 

  • The NHS’s guideline for adults aged 19–64 is to aim to be active every day, and to do at least two and a half hours of moderate aerobic activity per week, plus strength exercises that work all the major muscles on two or more days a week.
  • If you are starting an exercise programme for the first time – or are exercising for the first time in a long time – start low and slow and build it up gradually.
  • Warm up for five to ten minutes, and stretch, before beginning your exercise session, to help avoid pulled or strained muscles.
  • Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water or sports drinks to replace the fluids you lose through sweat.
  • Cool down afterwards by (for example) walking at a moderate pace for five to ten minutes after a run.
  • Allow your body sufficient time to recover between sessions, which will reduce the risk of microtraumas developing into serious injuries.

 

 

Sources:

http://www.summitmedicalgroup.com/news/fitness/Overuse-Injuries/

http://www.webmd.com/fitness-exercise/tc/sports-related-dehydration-topic-overview

http://www.webmd.com/men/features/exercise-addiction

http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/fitness/pages/physical-activity-guidelines-for-adults.aspx

 

 

UK/DIF/16/0011

Date of Prep: August 2016