While too little exercise can be bad for your health, too much isn't good either. Overexertion can decrease your performance and increase your injury risk. It can cause short-and long-term side effects and even lead to heart damage. Excessive exercise can be based upon duration of workouts and exercise intensity levels. Those who train for extreme physical events like marathons need to be especially aware of signs of overexertion.
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Too Much is Too Much
Health pros at the Center for Change wrote in 2013 that working out more than two hours a day may be a sign of excessive exercise. Limit vigorous exercise to 30- to 50-minute sessions per day to avoid stressing your cardiovascular system. One hour sessions are enough for weight training; going beyond that can bring on catabolism, which can cause muscle breakdown. Runners should keep it to no more than 10 to 15 miles per week to protect their hearts. That's according to a study by Dr. Carl Levie of the John Ochsner Heart and Vascular Institute published in 2012.
Tugging at the Heart
Any exercise that pushes you above your target heart rate, or exceeds the maximum heart rate, is considered excessive. Your maximum heart rate is your age subtracted from 220. For example, a 40-year-old's maximum heart rate is 180. You ideally want it to stay in a zone within 50 to 85 percent of your maximum heart rate. For the 40-year-old, that breaks down to between 90 and 153 beats per minute.
Little good comes out of excessive exercise. Some early results are lightheadedness and fatigue. Serious side effects include an elevated resting heart rate, heart scarring, and a damaged immune system. It can also lead to mental and emotional side effects like depression, insomnia and mood swings. Marathon runners have shown up to 50 percent higher levels of troponin, an enzyme associated with inflammation and possibly an increased risk of heart damage and heart attacks.
Getting it Right
The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommend that adults get in 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise, or 75 minutes of intense physical activity a week. A one-day rest between workouts will help your body recover. Aim for eight hours of sleep so your muscles can repair themselves. In addition to aerobic exercise, incorporate strength training into your fitness program at least two days per week.
- Fox 4 News: Warning Signs of Excessive Exercise
- Time: Extreme Workouts: When Exercise Does More Harm than Good
- Heart: Run for Your Life … at a Comfortable Speed and Not Too Far
- Go Ask Alice: Weightlifting 5 hours Per Day — Too Much?
- American Heart Association: Target Heart Rates
- U.S. News & World Report: 10 Signs You're Exercising Too Much
- U.S. Department of Health & Human Services: 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans Summary