Like everyone else, your body has its limits. For one, it can only take so much physical activity.
Sure, you need to exercise to stay fit and healthy. But, how can you expect to stay healthy if you constantly put your body under a tremendous amount of physical pressure?
Overdoing exercise can result to adverse health consequences. If you’re unlucky, it can even be fatal, particularly if it results to arterial fibrillation (AF).
So, how do you know how much exercise is just enough?
This post will help you answer that question. We will also give you information on the minimum amount of exercise you need to enjoy the health benefits, and what you can do to avoid too much physical activities, so you can protect your health.
So How Much Exercise Is Enough?
Getting the Minimum Amount of Beneficial Exercise
The AHA (American Heart Association) and the ACSM (American College of Sports Medicine) have set the recommended minimum amount of moderate-intensity and vigorous-intensity exercises.
Primary care physicians are encouraged to tell their patients to engage in sufficient physical activity. The current minimum exercise recommendations for different age groups and demographics are as follows:
At least 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity exercises or at least 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity activities is recommended for adults. Moderate-intensity and vigorous-intensity activities can be combined to achieve an equivalent amount of needed physical activity. The elderly are also required to do additional balance training and fall prevention for at least 3 times a week.
Children and young adults must do moderate to vigorous physical activity every day for at least 1 hour. Part of this requirement is bone-strengthening exercises and resistance training at least 3 times per week.
Patients with Diabetes
If you are diabetic, you need to perform exercises to prevent hypoglycemia. One exercise you can do is short-distance running. Other resistance training exercises are bicep curls, bench press, shoulder press, barbell squat, push-up, sit-up, body squat, and chin-up.
People with Hypertension
Research has discovered that dynamic resistance training is helpful if you are suffering from hypertension. You just need to be careful in ensuring that the load is not too much for your physical capacity.
Research suggests that exercising is also good for pain reduction if you have osteoarthritis. Recently, treatment for the condition was modified from “not recommending exercise” to “highly recommended exercise.”
Overdoing Exercise Can Be Harmful
Physical activity can help you maintain good health and achieve long life. We all know that. Going overboard, however, can harm you.
Want to know how you can tell if you’re already past the threshold? Watch out for these signs of excessive exercise.
Over-Exercising and Physical Health
Going over the exercise threshold results to adverse physical effects. These include the following
- Muscle sores and injuries – Muscle soreness that lasts for a long time is a sign of lack of rest. It means you’ve stretched the limits of your physical capacity too much.
- Feeling exhausted – Mental and physical grogginess are hallmark signs of overtraining.
- Fat gain – If you think you’ll lose fat by over-exercising, you’re wrong! In fact, your body becomes less efficient in burning fat, resulting to weight gain.
- Inability to perform at the level that you used to do – Decreased performance is more evident in endurance activities such as swimming, running and cycling.
When done right, exercise can bring tremendous health benefits. But, the reverse is true when excessive.
Over-Exercising and Mental Health
According to reports from the Lancet Psychiatry Journal, you can be compromising your mental health by exercising too much. Here’s what the researchers discovered:
- To gain optimum mental health benefits, you should log 45 minutes of exercise at least three times a week.
- Hitting the gym for over three hours per day is worse for mental health than not exercising at all.
Too much exercise is bad, not only for your physical health. It can have adverse effects on your mental health as well.
Over-Exercising and Chronic Stress
Over-exercising contributes to chronic stress. It may also lead to severe anxiety. This is because when you over-exercise, you put your body under a constant “flight or fight” state.
When your body is stressed, all other systems stop functioning normally. If your digestive system is affected, for instance, it can’t produce enough serotonin to support mental function.
Serotonin is the primary hormone responsible for mood regulation. Serotonin is produced in the gastrointestinal tract.
You can avoid chronic stress and severe anxiety through exercise – but only when done at the right amount.
Exercise for Athletes and Pregnant Women
Exercise for Athletes
Among athletes, chronic training and competition in extreme events can result to short-term adverse cardiovascular effects. These are particularly true if you join marathons, distance triathlons, and long-distance bicycle races.
In defining physical activity in relation to the development of diseases, experts focus on three areas – intensity, duration, and frequency. For instance, they found that people who have coronary artery disease are those who exercise more than the recommended 60-minute maximum.
In these patients, they observed that the antioxidant levels are significantly lower. Hardening of blood vessels was also noted among these patients.
In comparison, patients who exercise within the recommended range (60 minutes or less) experience improvement in blood circulation and reduction in the number of free radicals.
In one study, a high rate of myocardial fibrosis was found among athletes who engage in lifelong endurance activities. Researchers found that more than half of these athletes display signs of hardening of heart cells.
The hardening of heart cells can cause, at the very least, irregular heartbeat. In worse cases, the condition can lead to cardiac arrest.
If you belong to this group, you must limit your running distance to 15 miles a week or less. If you go beyond 25 miles per week, your risk of death is comparable to those who don’t exercise at all.
Athletes are physically superior to other people and have a higher exercise threshold. But, just the same, these limits must be strictly observed to enjoy optimum benefits.
Exercise for Pregnant Women
How much exercise is safe for pregnant women? Most moms-to-be know that exercise is helpful for mood and physical health, but there are thresholds to be observed.
In the past, if you were pregnant, your doctor would probably tell you to take a lot of bed rest. If you’re pregnant today, you wouldn’t hear that advice from your doctor. This is because too much bed rest has been found to be harmful for expectant moms.
Your doctor would even tell you that too much rest during pregnancy will reduce your muscles’ aerobic capacity and mass. It will also increase the possibility of developing blood clots.
Many studies have demonstrated the benefits and safety of exercise for pregnant women. Exercises such as Pilates, running, elliptical training, swimming, walking, and stationary cycling have been proven to lower the incidence of gestational diabetes, caesarian delivery, and excessive weight gain.
The following activities are not suitable during pregnancy, however:
- contact sports (ice hockey, soccer, boxing, basketball)
- activities with risk of falling (downhill skiing, surfing, water skiing, gymnastics, rollerblading, mountain biking, and horseback riding)
- scuba diving
- sky diving
- hot yoga
The recommendation is 30 minutes of moderate exercise five times a week. Women with a high level of skill for certain activities, such as outdoor cycling may continue doing the activities throughout their pregnancy after consulting with their physician.
Pregnant women are advised to stop exercising and immediately consult with an obstetrician if they experience any of the following:
- painful contractions
- amniotic fluid leakage
- Shortness of breath when at rest
- Chest pain
- Muscle weakness
- Pain or swelling in the calf
Exercise is healthy for expectant mothers. It can help in making childbirth safe and comfortable. However, some thresholds must not be crossed. Otherwise, it may be dangerous for both the mother and her child.
Additional Health Risks of Excessive Exercise
Over-exercising exposes women to a condition known as “female athlete triad.” This includes osteoporosis, loss of menstruation, and eating disorder. These three symptoms usually result from calorie restriction combined with too much physical activity.
Intense exercise among men has been observed to cause decreased libido. The reasons for the condition have not been identified, but researchers suspect that low testosterone levels and physical fatigue may be the culprits.
For both genders, over-exercising raises the risk of overuse injuries like stress fractures and tendinitis. These injuries arise from repetitive trauma.
The immune system is likewise compromised. While moderate exercises support your immune function, excessive exercise can actually affect it negatively.
Impaired immunity due to intense exercise may actually prevent your immune system from doing its functions, and there’s a 72- hour “open window” for that. That means, within that period, pathogens can easily attack and infect your body. This is why it is common for athletes to experience respiratory infections.
Thus, it is very important to keep in mind that excessive exercising can bring havoc to the body – especially your immune system, ligaments, tendons, heart, and mental health. For millions of people in the United States, exercise addiction is destroying their mental functions.
Symptoms of this type of addiction include withdrawal. If you have this addiction, you will often feel anxious or exhausted if you miss a workout. You may feel you don’t have control or feel that you can’t cut down on exercise – even if it is already hurting yourself.
Movement is inherent in people and other living things, and it keeps people fit, healthy, and productive. Therefore, you shouldn’t give up on exercising and accomplishing your fitness goals. The key is to know your limits and get the right amount of physical activity.