Tuesday, July 31, 2018

When Too Much Exercise is Bad for Your Health

There’s nothing better for your health than exercise.   Exercise both treats and lowers risk of diseases including high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, heart disease, cancer, and dementia.  Exercise strengthens your bones and muscles and improves posture and lung capacity to keep your body systems functioning at their best.   Exercise also strengthens your immunity to fight infections.  

The mental benefits of exercise cannot be beat:  studies have found exercise to be as effective as medication for depression.  Exercise improves sleep and mood, helps to manage stress, and keeps the mind clear.  It is a sure-fire way to improve longevity.  

With all these amazing benefits, is more exercise better?  Not necessarily.  Too much exercise can actually cause you harm.  While the threshold for over-exercise is different for everyone, if you are performing Intense exercise more than 2 hours a day, 7 days a week your health can be at risk. 

Here are signs you may be over-exercising:  

FATIGUE is the first sign of Overuse Syndrome, a medical condition of over-exercising without enough rest.  Fatigue and poor performance are the first symptoms, often followed by illness and injury.  A female type of overuse syndrome is The Female Athlete Triad, which includes disordered eating, lack of menstrual period, and osteoporosis.  This can lead to bone fractures, hormone disturbances, depression and fertility issues.


ILLNESS results from weakened immunity due to low energy supply and body stress from over exercise.  Natural killer cells, the cells of that fight diseases, cannot function well in a low energy environment.   While moderate exercise actually strengthens immunity, extreme amounts of exercise can lead to weakened immunity and more susceptibility to sickness.  

PAIN: Pain is a sign you have put too much stress on your bones, ligaments, muscles or tendons.  Increasing your exercise frequency, repetitions, or resistance too quickly, not using proper equipment, or having poor form can lead to pain and injury.   Wincing, stabbing or sharp pain is a sign you should stop the exercise immediately.   Pain present at times other than exercising for more than a few days should be evaluated by a doctor, as should pain that keeps you up at night.  


BROWN of RED URINE: Rhabdomyolysis/ “Rhabdo” is life-threatening situation requiring emergency hospitalization when the combination of extreme exertion and dehydration causes muscle breakdown so severe the kidneys cannot keep up.  Symptoms are extreme muscle pain and soreness, nausea, intensenfatigue, confusion and brown or red urine.  Beware muscle soreness lasting more than 3 days as this can predispose you to Rhabdo. 

LIGHTHEADEDNESS: Cardiac arrhythmias and enlarged heart can develop in extreme athletes.  This can lead to heart disease or heart attacks.  Sudden cardiac death syndrome is a condition in young athletes with symptoms of lightheadedness and fatigue.  Your doctor should be aware of any feelings of dizziness, shortness of breath or fatigue and you will be referred for EKG and echocardiogram to evaluate your heart’s function.  

If you heed the following advice you will keep your exercise routine as healthy as possible: 

Keep your exercise at moderate intensity at least 2 days a week.  
If you have a heavy exertional day, rest or take it easy the next.  
Always take one day a week off from intense exercise to let your body recover.  
If you are fighting a cold or flu, limit exercise to mild to moderate to boost immunity.
If you have pain that persists, change your exercise type to pain free.
If your muscles are severely sore for more than three days, rest until resolved.
If pain lasts longer than 1 week despite avoiding painful activities see your doctor. 

While these conditions sound scary, they are avoidable and manageable if you listen to your body’s signals.  Keep moving!  Don’t let these risks discourage you from obtaining all the stress-reducing, mood-bolstering, health-improving, longevity increasing benefits of exercise.