Is there such a thing as exercising too much? Can our bodies get stressed from exercising too often or for too long?
While a consistent, high intensity workout routine may provide benefits for those people looking to lose body fat and increase their strength and fitness, there is a fine line between training hard and overtraining. While running fast or for a long duration and lifting heavy may be major components of an active lifestyle, engaging in these physically demanding activities too regularly or too intensely can contribute to many different symptoms of overtraining.
While exercising can be great for inducing fat loss, increasing aerobic capacity, and reducing risk for cardiovascular disease, excessively intense or to frequent exercise can cause a variety of health problems.
Overtraining can lead to feelings of depression and chronic fatigue. The stress caused by intense, excessive exercise can negatively impact our thyroid hormones, which are the same as petrol for a car. Too little of thyroid hormones cause fatigue, depression and digestive issues
Another major effect that extreme exercise has on our bodies is an immediate increase in cortisol, the hormone that is released when the body is under stress. Chronically high levels of cortisol can increase your risk for a variety of health issues, such as sleep disturbances, digestive issues, depression, weight gain, and memory impairment. Excess cortisol also encourages fat gain, particularly around the abdomen.
So What Should You Consider
Everyone will have a different threshold of how much exercise is good for them, this will be influenced by lifestyle choices, your overall health and the amount of stress you are under at work and at home.
- Reduce the frequency. While pushing yourself hard at the gym is not inherently problematic, doing it too often during the week is overtraining. High intensity, high stress exercise should be limited to two or three times a week, especially for those who are dealing with health issues or a stress at work or at home.
- Get adequate rest. Sleep is extremely important for health. Not only is taking breaks from exercise important, but getting adequate sleep to allow recovery from your exercise routine.
- Mix it up. While high intensity exercise may be ideal for losing body fat and improving lean muscle mass, we know that high levels of cortisol can cause the body to hold onto fat. For this reason, you may consider trying a type of exercise such as yoga or simply just a long walk in the park.If you are running 5 to 6 times a week and often over 45-60 minutes consider including some strength training into your exercise routine.
- Nutrition. While cutting down carbohydrate consumption is often seen as the best way to decrease body fat, you still need to fuel your body for exercise. An adequate amount of carbohydrates, protein & fat is important for the body to function at optimum levels.