Exercise for Health
Health experts say adults should get at least 30 minutes of exercise a day over a minimum of five days a week. In addition, adults need to do muscle strengthening exercises at least two days a week.
Regular physical activity helps the body burn extra calories and lose or control weight. It builds strong bones and muscles, improves endurance and increases flexibility. In addition, exercise can decrease a person's risk for heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes and some types of cancer.
Going Too Far?
While some exercise is healthy, pushing yourself too far isn't necessarily better. Exercise experts say the body needs to adapt slowly to increases in cardiovascular and muscular fitness. Rest periods between exercises help repair muscle damage and build muscle and bone. Too much exercise or too stressful a workout can increase the risk for muscle soreness, fatigue, illness and stress fractures. In fact, over-exercising can lead to serious exhaustion and greatly decrease performance ability.
Andrew Fry, Fitness and Wellness Assistant Director, with Indiana University School of Health in Bloomington, IN, says it's hard to define over-exercising because fitness levels vary greatly from one person to the next. An exercise level that seems to over-the-top for the average person may be a standard level of training for someone else. He says some key behaviors to look for are repetitive exercise, and obsession with exercise and antisocial behaviors (like avoidance of friends, family or other social activities).
People who exercise too much develop physical symptoms as well. One of the main signs is overwhelming fatigue, sometimes even at rest. The fatigue greatly impairs performance and can increase the risk for muscle soreness and injury. Other signs include: depression and irritability, coordination problems, sleep trouble, appetite changes, weight loss, increased incidence of colds or other illness, headaches, an increase in blood pressure and elevation of the morning heart rate.
Fry says it's important for fitness instructors to be on the lookout for clients who may be going too far in their exercise routines. Clients with a potential problem should be referred to medical professionals who can provide a thorough evaluation and, if necessary, a plan of action.
While over-exercising is often associated with women who have eating disorders, the incidence in men has doubled over the last four years. Risk appears to be higher among athletes who must meet weight guidelines to fit in a certain competitive class, like weight-lifters, wrestlers and rowers. For women, the problem is more likely to occur among cheerleaders and gymnasts.
Research compiled and edited by Barbara J. Fister
American Council on Exercise, http://www.acefitness.org
American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine, http://www.stopsportsinjuries.org
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, http://www.cdc.gov