As a trainer and a Pilates instructor, I am always encouraging my clients to get more active.
Taken to the extreme, though, too much exercise will have negative consequences on the mind and body.
We asked some experts in fitness, nutrition, and psychology to help identify symptoms of overexercising – keep reading to find out what they said.
You’re sore every day. Some level of soreness is expected after a hard workout, but your muscles should improve as you adjust into a new program. DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) usually occurs one to three days postexercise and will continue to get better over time. If you’re in daily pain without any relief, you might be causing more muscle damage than you intended.
Injuries keep cropping up. Physical therapist Christine Gorsek said, “Continuing to struggle with the same injury causing tendinitis may be a sign of overexercise. Try to add some variety to your routine – such as bodyweight-only exercises, water aerobics, yoga to challenge your body in a new way – and prevent repetitive overuse that will cause you pain.” If you are a new mom, paying attention to your body and activity is especially important to keep your long-term-injury risk down.
Rapid weight loss. “Although weight loss may be your goal, losing weight too quickly can be unhealthy,” said registered dietitian Stefanie Mendez. “It’s not just body fat that is being lost; your body will also break down muscle when the demands are too high on your body. Healthy weight loss is recommended at one to two pounds per week. If you’re losing weight more rapidly than that, consider decreasing the amount of cardio exercise being done and increasing the amount of food being consumed.” Make sure that you’re getting adequate amounts of food and fluid and not burning off excessive amounts of calories.
Loss of appetite. It should be noted that exercise may lead to nausea post-workout, but if you find your appetite is not returning, it’s time to take action – especially since you need calories to fuel your workouts effectively! Don’t be afraid to cut your workout times down, take a rest day, or have a fitness professional create the best program for you.
Ravenous appetite. Working out crazy amounts may contribute to consuming more calories than you burn. I tell my clients to start with 30 minutes of daily exercise and see how their appetite changes. If they are able to avoid late-night snacking, they can attempt to up the workout duration but should stay in tune with hunger changes.
Insomnia. High-intensity exercise triggers higher stress levels and hormonal changes in your body, most of which are positive. The real damage comes in when you don’t allow your body time to recover, throwing your body out of whack. When your hormones are all over the place, your brain struggles to tell your body it’s time to sleep. For a myriad of reasons, lack of sleep can negatively impact your health and cause you to gain weight. Not a side effect you want if you’re trying to get in shape! If you’ve already cut out caffeine and you’re still finding it hard to fall asleep or stay asleep, you may be exercising too much.
Hair loss. Julie Shapiro, certified personal trainer and yoga instructor, notes, “While exercise in and of itself does not cause hair loss, excessive exercise can lead to hair loss because it places excess stress on the body. This chronic stress causes hair follicles to go into a resting state, causing it to shed. According to the American Hair Loss Association, this is a condition known as TE, or telogen effluvium.”
Brittle nails. If you’re not getting the right vitamins and minerals, your nails may change in color, develop white spots, or become very brittle. Lack of eating caused by overexertion can lead to deficiencies and poor nail health, and your nails will break off or chip easily.
Longer recovery for colds and illness. While most exercise helps to boost your immune system, long-endurance exercise may open the door for increased stress and inflammation, causing you to stay sick longer than you’d like. Make sure to vary your workouts and allow proper recovery time in between long-endurance bouts.
Exhaustion. When it comes to exhaustion, psychologist Amber Parker, PsyD, LCP, with the Cedar Psychological Center said, “Exercise can be a wonderful tool for managing stress, anxiety, and depression. However, for someone who is chronically stressed or anxious, too much exercise can keep the body in a state of physiological arousal. The body cannot maintain that state indefinitely and will eventually become depleted. Signs of this depletion are exhaustion and fatigue that we have difficulty overcoming. It is important to balance exercise with other activities that help relax us to restore our physical bodies.”