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Is there such thing as too much exercise?

September 1st, 2021 by
Category: Dr. Linh Phan Exercise Health & Wellbeing Sport Uncategorized

By Dr. Linh Phan, Chiropractor at Total Health Chiropractic Rockhampton

man performing mountain climbers on yoga mat in empty building space

Throughout my time as a Chiropractor, one thing that is often at the top of people’s minds is the question: “Is there such a thing as too much exercise?”. This topic will be discussed over the course of this blog post.

In Australia, according to the Department of Health, the recommended amount of exercise for children is a minimum of 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity spread out across the course of a day [1].

There are many benefits of exercise for children including: 

  • Better confidence and self-esteem
  • Healthy development of bones and muscles
  • More time spent with friends and family, reducing anti-social behaviour
  • Lower risk of disease and unhealthy weight gain

For adults however, the exercise recommendation changes. Weekly, adults are expected to do either 1.25 to 2.5 hours of vigorous exercise, 2.5 to 5 hours of moderate intensity exercise or a mixture of both.

Muscle strengthening exercise should be included into your training regimen for a multitude of benefits. All of these workouts combined have a great effect in reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease and type-2 Diabetes by managing your cholesterol, blood pressure and blood sugar levels. It also promotes the formation and maintenance of stronger bones and muscles! [2]

What are the different classifications of exercise?

[3] Exercise is split among three different classifications, those being; light, moderate, and vigorous exercise.

Examples of light exercise would be walking the dog along the park or to school, doing chores around the house, throwing a ball in the backyard – even playing an instrument is a form of light exercise!

Moderate exercise gets more intense and includes activities such as swimming, badminton, brisk walking or cycling and believe it or not, mowing the lawn counts towards this tier of exercise!

Finally, vigorous exercise entitles more aerobic forms of activities and requires you to work with at least 70 to 85 percent of your maximum heart rate [4]. High intensity sports such as basketball and soccer or recreational activities like running or cycling (at 16km/h) are all forms of vigorous or strenuous exercise.

What happens when you don’t get enough exercise?

So we’ve covered what the various forms of exercise are as well as how much we should aim for every week, but what happens when you don’t get enough exercise? Many studies have been conducted, noting the significance of a sedentary lifestyle and the implications of maintaining such behaviour increases the risk of cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, hypertension (increased blood pressure), depression and mental health disorders, osteoporosis and arthralgia (joint pain) [5].

Is there such thing as too much exercise?

Now this leads us to the age old question: Is there such a thing as too much exercise?

In the most plain answer, yes. Just like you can under-exert yourself, there are times when you can over-exert yourself which can have many detrimental effects on both your mind and your body. With that being said, over-exertion is relative depending on your level of fitness. A desk worker would respond entirely differently to running a marathon than a professional athlete whose training is already quite rigorous. It’s hard to calculate the exact amount of exercise that reaches and goes beyond the threshold of “too much”, but I will explain it in detail –

  • Physically, this occurs when the build-up of lactic acid produced in your muscles begins to cause a painful, burning sensation throughout your muscles.
  • Repetitive stress can lead to longer term soreness and heaviness of your limbs.
  • Mentally, you can start to fatigue more easily and suffer “burn-out” or loss of motivation in achieving your goals.
  • You can also start to have trouble sleeping which will bring life to anxiety, mood swings and increased irritability [6].

For some of the more competitive fitness geeks in us, overtraining is inevitable, so how do we recover from these intense training sessions? Ensuring enough sleep and a dialed in diet that covers your caloric and micronutrient needs will help with recovery. Knowing how much is too much comes with the professional skill set so be sure to give yourself some rest days.

Making sure that we keep up with our 2.5 to 5 hour weekly physical activity plays a major role in combating all the nasty detrimental heart, lung, mental health and other bodily diseases. For some of us, training is also a part of our lifestyle so knowing how much will start to have a harmful effect on the body is important. Within every form of physical activity and exercise, whether it be light, moderate or vigorous, ensure that you get enough sleep, food and rest to repair the body back to tip-top shape for another day of hard work.

Sources

  1. https://www.health.gov.au/health-topics/physical-activity-and-exercise/physical-activity-and-exercise-guidelines-for-all-australians/for-children-and-young-people-5-to-17-years
  2. https://www.health.gov.au/health-topics/physical-activity-and-exercise/physical-activity-and-exercise-guidelines-for-all-australians/for-adults-18-to-64-years 
  3. https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/obesity-prevention-source/moderate-and-vigorous-physical-activity/
  4. https://www.healthline.com/health/strenuous-exercise#whats-strenuous-exercise
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7700832/#:~:text=Sedentary%20behaviors%20have%20wide%2Dranging,such%20as%20arthralgia%20and%20osteoporosis%3B
  6. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/patientinstructions/000807.htm 

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