That health is wealth has become the most popular mantra among the suddenly fitness-conscious populace who are into running, biking, yoga, Pilates, weights and assorted physical regimen.
Exercise after all improves one’s general health and conditions us both physically and mentally. Workouts also help us achieve a slender physique and put on curves in the right places thus boosting our self-esteem and emotional quotient. Coupled with proper nutrition, exercise helps our body perform at its best.
Sources at the Johns Hopkins University say that our metabolism rate decreases by two percent after we hit the age of 30. This is mainly due to muscle reduction which is part of the natural process of aging. A fitness regime slows down this process. Increased sweating is an inevitable result of exercise and is a good way to remove the toxins from the body.
Aside from the physical benefits, exercise provides a good break from stress as it decreases the stress hormones called cortisol and promotes the production of the feel-good chemicals called endorphins.
But can you have too much of a good thing? When does exercise become excessive? Can one ever be addicted to exercise?
According to Jiggs Tenorio a registered physical therapist and fitness manager at Gold’s Gym Ortigas branch, the average person in the Philippines gets to exercise from three to four times a week at a 45-minute stretch each time. This is within the range of the frequency and amount of physical activity recommended by the American Council of Exercise.
While most people struggle to get enough exercise, there are those who exercise too much, unaware of the dangers of extreme workouts. Over-exercising is also medically called compulsive or obligatory exercising and happens when a person exerts excessive effort during workouts to the point that it becomes unsafe to the joints and muscles involved.
Tears in the ligament and muscular sprain are the most common injuries when this happens. It’s alright to push oneself to the limits occasionally, but give your muscles and joints enough time to recover.
Overexertion if consistently done will result in the breakdown of muscles and other soft tissue (ligaments, joints, etc.).
But to clarify: When one is undergoing athletic training, it is not considered as over-exercising since this involves more advanced training. Athletes have to train for longer periods of time to increase their endurance and enhance their performance. They usually have athletic trainers and fitness professionals to supervise them and give them the do’s and dont’s in relation to their specific discipline.
So how much is too much exercise?
According to Mayank Attrish, a famous fitness professional from India, to maintain a normal healthy body, some 2,000-3,500 calories should be burned each week through aerobic exercises, such as running, cycling and the like. Thirty to 45 minutes a day, five or six days a week is sufficient to acquire health benefits from a workout. Exercising beyond 3,500 calories per week, however, leads to decreased physical benefits and an increased risk of injury.
Though exercise addiction is not included in the statistical manual of mental disorders, said to be the gold standard for psychological diagnoses, it is possible for an individual to be addicted to exercise.
Psychiatrists classify exercise addiction as a compulsive behavior, similar to that of an eating disorder, a gambling addiction, alcohol addiction and other forms of addiction.
Dr. Marc Kern a Los Angeles-based psychologist and the director of addiction alternatives, states that an exercise addict works out at least two hours a day and keeps exercising despite painful injuries. Exercise addicts, if unable to work out for a day or two, feel down and develops different forms of paranoia such as fear of getting fat or losing some muscularity from their physique. They have the tendency to be non-productive at work or with the family, and may become socially withdrawn.
Other physical risks are involved in over-exercising, among them dehydration. Most exercise addicts overtrain themselves without drinking enough fluids. This can lead to fatigue, insomnia and depression. Physical side effects, such as spinal deterioration, shin splints, tennis elbow and many others are the other common injuries associated with too much exercise. Researchers from the University of Wisconsin have revealed that too much exercise can lead to the release of excessive free radicals, which have been linked to cellular mutations and cancer.
The following are the symptoms of over-exercising: Feeling tired and fatigued, lack of energy, Insomnia, Persistent muscular soreness, Increase incidence of injury, Sudden weight loss, Elevated Heart rate, Irritability, Constant Headaches, Loss of Appetite, Increased susceptibility to infections.
If you suspect that you’re an exercise addict, here are some tips to cope with your condition:
1. Take time to chill out. Instead of stressing yourself from being unable to flex your muscles in the gym or missing your daily run for a day, divert yourself through other productive activities with your family, friends or officemates. Even God rested on the seventh day, and we might as well follow that.
2. Go for a variety of activities. Unless you are a bodybuilding athlete, you do not have to be weight training seven times a week for you to be healthy and fit. There are a lot of different physical activities out there that can enhance calorie expenditure. Try other activities and choose those that can motivate you more. By breaking the monotony of your physical activities, you will not be susceptible to experiencing an overuse syndrome.
3. Set realistic fitness goals. Make a good game plan in achieving your fitness goals without the danger of over-exercising.
4. Eat a balanced diet. Exercise can help you lose weight and achieve a nice figure but you also have to fuel your body with a well-balanced diet to assure proper nourishment.
5. Hit the spa. Massages are medically known to enhance blood circulation, prevent muscle stiffness and tension, reduce blood pressure and may possibly help treat exercise injuries.
6. Pay close attention to pain when working out. Pain is a sign that there’s something wrong in the tissues involved when you’re moving. Do not ignore it and stop, especially if it’s triggered by further movement.
Learn all the symptoms of over-exercising and take steps to prevent further complications. Exercise should make you feel energized, not exhausted, If it’s causing damage to your body, results in fatigue, or a feeling of dread, stop and listen to your body-before it breaks down.