Get out of the Gym!

From fatigue to heart problems, too much exercise may be bad for your health.

Exercise is good for you. The more you do, the healthier you are, right? But what if you exercise too much? That’s right—there is such thing as too much exercise. However, new research reveals the relationship between health and exercise is more complicated than once thought. Studies show there may be health consequences from exercise that’s done at an intense level or done too frequently.
What’s the connection between the intensity and duration of exercise and your health? How do you know when you’ve had too much of a good thing?

Atrial Fibrillation (AF)

A study of almost 45,000 men showed those who exercised at an intense level more then five hours a week at age 30 were at a 19-percent increased risk of developing atrial fibrillation by age 60 compared to those who exercised only one hour a week. The chances of AR were higher in men who later stopped exercising when they got older. AR is a type of arrhythmia, an abnormal heartbeat. With AR, the heart may beat too slowly, too fast, or irregularly. AR increases one’s risk for stroke, chest pain, and even heart failure.

Statistics from the study revealed a 13-percent decreased risk of AR for men who did moderate intensity exercise at least one hour a day compared to those who hardly exercised at all.

Heart Disease

Are there benefits to exercise when you already have coronary heart disease? One 10-year study tracked more than 1,000 people with heart disease to see how exercise affected the outcome of their conditions. The findings revealed that those who did intense aerobic exercise two to four days a week cut their risk of death, heart attack, and stroke the most. Those who exercised the least were twice as likely to experience a heart attack and stroke and had a four-fold chance of dying, while those who exercised more than four days a week were also more likely to die from a heart attack or stroke.

Why would exercise increase one’s risk for heart complications? It’s suspected that at an intense level such as that required during endurance training, exercise may increase inflammation in those who already have heart disease.

Limitations and Conclusions

The results of these two studies are intriguing and enlightening to the extent of benefits gained from exercise. The study does have limitations, however, as the results are based on the participant’s personal answers to the questionnaire. The results are dependant on each person’s honest evaluation of the duration and intensity of their exercise. What’s intense for one person may not be intense to another.

While their evaluation of intensity may vary, warning signs of too much exercise do not. These include fatigue, weight gain, loss of appetite, decrease in performance, mood changes, trouble sleeping, and a weakened immune system. If you notice these changes, cut back on your amount of exercise, slow down, or take a break for a couple days.

Prolonged exercise and too strenuous exercise can be harmful to your heart. This should be good news for those of you who don’t love exercising. Now you don’t have to stress about running one more mile or exercising every single day of the week. But you don’t get off the hook altogether.

To gain the maximum health benefits from exercise, work out at a moderate level. This means 150 minutes a week (30 minutes five days a week) of moderate intensity exercise or 75 minutes (25 minutes three days a week) of vigorous activity. Examples of a moderate workout include swimming, brisk walking, or gentle cycling. A high-intensity workout might be running, playing soccer, or cross-country skiing.