Can Too Much Exercise be Harmful?

Extreme workouts over a period of time can cause damage to your body

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Author: Christin Sander, Health Writer

The health benefits of regular exercise include reduced risk of chronic, life-threatening diseases like heart attack, stroke and type 2 diabetes. Exercise has also been proven to increase cognitive function, improve mental performance and prevent dementia later in life. With all the positive benefits of exercise, it's easy to overlook the possible drawbacks.

How much is too much? Recent studies have revealed that excessive exercise may damage the heart and lead to premature death. James H. O'Keefe, director of preventative cardiology at the Mid America Heart Institute states "Chronic extreme endurance efforts, like marathons, ultra-marathons, and long-distance triathlons, can cause cardiovascular damage over time."

According to data, chronic training and participation in extreme endurance events causes stretching and dilation of the heart's chambers. The right ventricle's blood pumping ability can be reduced. In time, overtraining can also cause scarring of the heart tissue, enlargement and stiffening of the heart. There is also a risk of developing atrial fibrillation, an abnormal heart rhythm that can increase the risk of stroke.

Excessive exercise can also lead to other health problems, including strains and sprains, stress fractures, arthritis and osteoporosis. Women who exercise compulsively can face reproductive problems and may stop having periods. Compulsive exercise can also be a symptom of an eating disorder like anorexia.

Some studies have also suggested that over exercising taxes the immune system, leading to more susceptibility to infections. Moderate exercise helps immune cells circulate through the body more rapidly, making them better able to kill bacteria and viruses. Unfortunately, too much intense exercise has the opposite effect and reduces immunity. During extreme physical exertion, the body produces more of the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline that suppress immunity. More than 90 minutes of high-intensity exercise can lead to these changes.

The American College of Sports Medicine recommends adults participate in 150 minutes of exercise per week for optimal health. This amount of moderate exercise is enough to promote good health and prevent many diseases.

Signs You're Exercising Too Much

Fatigue. If you are feeling fatigued after exercising instead of energized, you may be doing too much. Exercise leads to a natural surge in energy for several hours after a workout. If you feel mentally or physically worn out, it's a sign of overexertion.

If your normal workout routine suddenly becomes more difficult or you struggle to finish, it may be a sign that you are overworking or not taking enough of a rest period between workouts.

Delayed recovery time is another sign you are overdoing it. Muscle soreness that lasts for hours or days after a workout suggests you need more time to rest. Pushing through extreme soreness can lead to injury.

An elevated resting heart rate may indicate excessive stress to the body. If your resting heart rate stays elevated for extended amounts of time or if it is elevated upon waking in the morning, it is a definite warning sign to scale back your training.

There are many herbal and homeopathic remedies that can naturally support stamina and vitality, helping you make the most of your workouts without overtaxing your system.

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