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How does one decide how much exercise is too much? According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, “The Surgeon General recommends that everyone should get a moderate amount of physical activity on most, if not all, days of the week.”1 While most individuals can determine how much exercise fits the term moderate, there is a danger of becoming so addicted to the exercise that they can no longer distinguish between healthy and unhealthy exercise. When that happens, there are mental and physical symptoms and effects that manifest.
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Mental Effects of Too Much Exercise
The mental effects can range from mild to severe, depending on how obsessed the person has become with compulsive exercise. For instance, a person’s sleep patterns may change or insomnia may occur because the excessive exercise released too many endorphins into the bloodstream. Sleep deprivation leads to other problems like trouble concentrating or neglecting other tasks to keep exercising.
Eating disorders – anorexia, bulimia, and the like – may manifest. The individual may feel that exercise alone will not help them lose enough weight, and they begin to cut back or eliminate eating.
Other symptoms of compulsive exercising include, but are not limited to:
- Feelings of worthlessness
Now, let’s look at the physical effects of too much exercise because it is important to realize if the mental effects become serious enough, they can cause or exacerbate any physical effects
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Physical Effects of Working Out Excessively
Like the mental effects, the physical symptoms and problems are myriad. At the milder end of the spectrum, individuals may experience muscle or joint pain and injury. There is a danger inherent in the exercise adage “no pain, no gain” for those who are addicted to exercise. If an exercise hurts, stop immediately.
Instead of feeling energized by their workouts, these individuals feel tired and fatigued. They may lose their appetite or stop eating entirely. The immune system is compromised, and they succumb to even mild illnesses more quickly.
Rather than enjoying enhanced athletic performance, their performance is reduced. Recovering from workouts takes longer, and their heart and blood pressure levels are elevated even when the body is at rest. There is a substantial loss of bone and muscle mass, and the body may even go into starvation mode.
They may suffer from headaches or gastrointestinal disorders. Other warning symptoms of over exertion are:
- Body stops sweating
- Body temperature rises above normal
If you think you are developing an obsession with exercising too much, you may want to consider professional counseling. Because the answer to the question "What does too much working out do to your body" has revealed so many risks to one's health and well being, it is important to be on your guard against becoming addicted.
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It is always wise to consult with your healthcare professional before starting, changing or stopping any exercise programs. Certain populations, like children, the elderly and pregnant women need to be more cautious about exercise.
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1 - University of Maryland University, How Much Exercise Is Too Much?, accessed 12/20/2010
The Ohio State University Medical Center, The Do’s and Don’ts of Exercise, accessed 12/20/2010
San Diego State University, Aztec Recreation, Over Exercise, Body Image, and Disordered Eating, 8/11/10, accessed 12/20/2011