Would you believe me if I told you exercise could actually be harmful? Okay, I bet I just got a few couch surfer’s attention with that statement.
Yes, it is valid. Exercise is like all good things - best done in moderation. More and more fitness professionals are starting to move in the direction of less is more.
There have been many fitness outliers advising their friends and clients for years to practice moderation with their exercise regimens. These early adopters saw that chronic exercise was counterproductive to many different people for many various reasons. Genetics, health issues and diet also lead them to understand that exercise activity was not a one size fits all method towards good health.
As we entered the new millennium, exercise took off, gym memberships started to soar, and the vast majority of folks began the process of chronic exercise. One of the big culprits that drove chronic exercise and still does is chronic cardio. Chronic cardio is a pattern of exercise that keeps a person’s heart rate too high for too long without a proper rest recovery period. It is interesting that even today after all the research and science has been tallied, many fitness professionals say that chronic exercise is not a thing.
With so much debate and varied opinions in the exercise community regarding chronic exercise, it is a bit surprising there is not a more unified approach by all fitness professionals around this topic. Endurance athletes tend to lead the pack in disregarding the adverse effects of chronic exercise. In the last 10 years, a condition called athlete’s heart has become so prevalent in runners that deaths from this condition have risen dramatically.
For endurance athletes, it is essential to understand the heart is an involuntary muscle which has no choice but to rise to the level of exertion. Heart muscle does not tear or break down and rebuild itself like the other muscle tissue in the body. Putting yourself through prolonged exercise like running and over-exerting the heart can make the walls thicken, and the heart can enlarge, which can lead to sudden heart attacks. Overuse of the heart can lead to less elasticity, and it places pressure on the heart function, which in most cases is not reversible. Every year top runners die suddenly without warning during endurance races because they are not aware what all their overtraining has done to their hearts.
Chronic exercise also affects weightlifters, cyclists and pretty much any exercise that over-stresses all aspects of our kinetic chain. Not all chronic exercise affects just the heart muscle; many can damage connective tissue, or can lead to arthritic inflammation, and other overuse injuries can take time and medical attention to heal properly.
The fact that excessively exercising can be harmful to your health is not so much the debate. The issue is how much is too much exercise? The answer to this is different for everyone and it is this difference that leads so many people to overdo it. Most of us have no idea what our exercise threshold is and we do not pay attention to cues from our body that we have had enough.
Here are a few ways your body is telling you that you are overdoing exercise:
1. Chronic fatigue: if you feel tired and lack energy, it is your body saying you that you need downtime from exercise.
2. Decreased gains in strength, endurance, and overall performance: if you hit the wall with excessive exercise, you will start losing any early benefits you have already made.
3. Physical activity should promote a good night’s sleep: too much exercise will cause insomnia to develop over time.
4. Slow to no recovery with small injuries: you may notice that aches and pains, tears and sprains just won’t heal quickly. Again, this is your body telling you to take a break.
5. Chronic exercise elevates your resting heart rate: workouts appropriately done will, in fact, lower your resting heart due to proper conditioning and recovery.
6. Reduced immune response: when you do chronic exercise, it triggers an inflammatory response through your body, it releases stress hormones and breaks down your immunity. Many athletes that overdo it find themselves battling colds, flu and other illnesses due to their weakened immune system.
Keeping your exercise regimens inconsistent and moderated is vital. You need to observe your fitness progress, and I recommend you keep a log of all your fitness efforts. Tracking strength gains, body composition, and endurance ability are critical roadmaps to keeping your workouts within a safe and progressive zone.
Finally, eat healthy foods, reduce your sugar intake, be sure to get at least eight to nine hours of sleep and listen to your body when you feel the need to rest.
No pain, no gain is a myth and frankly an unhealthy way to measure your efforts.