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10th March, 20203 min read

The dangers of too much exercise

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Regular exercise can do wonders for your health, but did you know that too much exercise can be dangerous?

According to The Centre for Clinical Interventions (CCI), exercising for more than 1 hour a day can increase your risk of injury or lead to a serious medical problem.

Here’s how to spot the signs of too much exercise and what to do if you’re exercising too much.

What happens if you exercise too much?

Pushing yourself too hard for too long can cause a variety of problems. The obvious danger of doing too much exercise is the potential for injuries, such as a sprain or torn ligament.

However, exercising too much can also lead to less obvious health problems, such as:

  • depression
  • anxiety
  • a weakened immune system
  • irregular or absent periods
  • permanent joint damage
  • problems with your digestive system
  • heart problems

Exercise addiction and unhealthy habits

For some people, exercise can become addictive. When this happens, exercise may turn into something you have to do, and you may feel guilty or anxious when you can’t do it. You may also notice that:

  • friends or family members seem concerned about how much you exercise
  • exercise is no longer fun but you feel compelled to keep training
  • you skip work, school or social events to exercise
  • you feel like you need to exercise even though you’re injured or sore
  • you struggle to focus when you’re not exercising

Exercise addiction is not formally recognised as a mental health condition, but it can be very unhealthy. Exercise addiction can also be associated with certain eating disorders.

If you think you may be addicted to exercise, speak to a doctor. They will be able to examine your habits and help you tackle them safely.

How much exercise is too much?

The right amount of exercise depends on your age and overall fitness. To maintain good health, adults aged 19 to 64 should aim to do around 150 minutes of moderate exercise each week and do some form of physical activity every day.

A good way to hit the recommended weekly exercise goal is to do 30 minutes of moderate exercise 5 days a week. You can combine intense and moderate aerobic exercise to give your body plenty of time to recover.

If you do more than 1 hour of intense exercise every day, you may be doing too much.

Signs that you’re exercising too much

Other signs that you’re doing too much exercise include:

  • muscle pain that doesn't go away after a couple of days
  • a drop in your athletic performance, despite a vigorous exercise programme
  • feeling tired all the time
  • feeling anxious
  • loss of motivation

What to do if you think you’re exercising too much

If you think you may be doing too much exercise, try cutting back or resting for 1 to 2 weeks. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, it can take up to 2 weeks to recover from the symptoms of too much exercise.

If you struggle to cut down on exercise, see a doctor. They may refer you to a health professional who specialises in compulsive disorders or cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT).

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Important: Our website provides useful information but is not a substitute for medical advice. You should always seek the advice of your doctor when making decisions about your health.