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Here’s What Can Happen to Your Body When You Work Out Too Much

For a lot of people, it’s a struggle to exercise as much as they should. But some people have the opposite problem—they work out too much. And while too little exercise is unhealthy, too much can cause issues as well.

“Overtraining can lead to overuse injuries such as muscle strains, stress fractures or tendon injuries.” Plus, when you exercise too much, you may lose your motivation or simply no longer enjoy your sports or workouts,” said Amy Jo Overlin, MD, a sports medicine physician at Banner Health in Phoenix, AZ.

How can you tell if you are working out too much?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends a minimum amount of exercise—150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical exercise per week, plus muscle-strengthening activities two days per week.

But there’s no recommended upper limit. That’s because the point at which you’re overdoing it is different for everyone. For example, a healthy marathon runner can exercise a lot more than the average person without causing harm.

You need to watch for signs that indicate you’re working out too much. According to the National Library of Medicine, they can include:

  • Poor recovery the day after a workout
  • Fatigue
  • Sore muscles or heavy limbs
  • Increased resting heart rate
  • An inability to perform at your typical level
  • Mood swings or irritability
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Weight loss
  • Loss of appetite
  • Anxiety or depression
  • More frequent colds or illnesses
  • Overuse injuries
  • Lacking motivation

How can you exercise without overdoing it?

You can have an active life with plenty of physical activity without working out too much. Here are a few strategies to try:

  • Plan to have one day a week that’s a complete rest and recovery day. To maximize your workouts, rest is essential. “It’s not being lazy, it’s training intelligently,” Dr. Overlin said.
  • Cross-train or do activities that are different from your primary exercise routine or sport.
  • Listen to your body. “If you are feeling fatigued before your workout or a muscle or joint is painful, try giving it a few days of rest,” Dr. Overlin said.
  • Make sure you get enough sleep. That’s seven to nine hours a night for most adults. “Sleep is the cornerstone of great performance. Without it, you won’t be able to train at the level you are capable of,” Dr. Overlin said.
  • Stay hydrated so your body can perform at its optimum level during a workout and you can recover more quickly after a workout.
  • Feed your body enough nutritious food. “If you don’t fuel your body, it won’t perform at its peak, and there won’t be enough building blocks to heal the microinjuries that occur with exercise,” Dr. Overlin said. Over time, without sufficient fuel, you won’t perform well, and you increase your risk of overuse injuries.
  • When you start a new workout routine or exercise, slowly increase your activity over time. If you aren’t sure how, talk to an exercise professional.

The bottom line

When you work out too much, you risk physical and mental health problems. Listening to your body and allowing yourself time to rest can help keep you from overdoing it. If you would like to talk to a sports medicine specialist for individualized advice on the best ways to work out, connect with Banner Health.

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