Everyone knows that exercise is a good thing. The human body is designed to move. Most people associate exercise with burning calories, thus a great way to lose weight. The great thing about exercise is that is goes way beyond burning calories and helps improve all bodily functions. Yep, I just said all bodily functions! This includes improved brain function, enhanced memory, enhances learning pathways, improves/stabilizes moods, balances hormones, boosts immune function, strengthens the heart, helps with bowel function, improves toxin elimination, and even elevates self-esteem. This list could go on and on.
We humans like to find a good thing and somehow screw it up. We tend to think that if something is good, then more must be better. And if more is better, then a ton of it must be best. Well, we are now finding out that too much exercise backfires, causing more harm than good. You may very well have experienced first-hand the downside of over-training.
The body is very adaptive. The reason muscles get bigger is because if you load them with weight and put them through numerous repetitions you actually damage the muscle fibers. The body recognizes that it may be subjected to that type of activity again, so as it heals the damaged tissue, it increases its size and strength to better withstand that same activity next time.
Exercise by its very nature is a stressor. And, like the muscle getting bigger, our bodies respond to various exercises by becoming more efficient, stronger, faster, and overall healthier. Done properly, the results are phenomenal. Our overall health is boosted by daily exercise.
If the exercise is done in excess, the body not only fails to experience the benefits associated with activity, it starts to exhibit telltale signs of trauma. In our quest to run further, lift more, climb higher, and bike longer, the body breaks down. The end result is foot and ankle problems, knee and/or hip tendonitis, back or neck pain, shoulder tears, etc. Pushing our bodies too far for too long can go far beyond joint problems and musculoskeletal issues. It can disrupt your hormones, cause brain chemical imbalances, and disturb your sleep cycles. Your quest to be fitter and healthier could end up leaving you fatigued, uninterested in sex (or unable to perform), and even depressed.
As you embark on a new workout kick, be careful of the rigorous programs, the high-intensity bootcamps, and endurance and obstacle events. I actually think all of those things are great… for the right person at the right time. If trained properly over time, I love the idea of challenging your body and mind. Truly testing yourself is incredible. But if you have been inactive for a long period of time and decide to get back at it, you must start slowly.
If you jump in too fast and with too much intensity, your body is prone to injury, and will respond adversely. Even some personal trainers could feel like the only way for you to feel like you’re getting your money’s worth is push you the brink of exhaustion each and every session. Instead of that healthy glow and fit physique, you’ll end up beat up, broken, and confined to the couch.
A great wellness strategy to adhere to is… progress, not perfection. Start out with an appropriate amount of exercise. Feelings of fatigue after a workout or soreness the next day is not only acceptable, but a good indicator that you are pushing your body toward improvement. The inability to get out of bed, to walk straight, or to laugh without pain because your abs, legs, or biceps are too sore indicates you’ve overdone it.
I know what you might be thinking… first he says we need to exercise, now he says we are doing too much. You need to apply common sense to everything wellness. Anything can be harmful in excess, even water. No one will argue that exercise is a critical component to the wellness lifestyle, but I see firsthand the pulled muscles, tendonitis, bulged discs, and joint pain from doing too much too fast.