We all know exercise is good for you! So isn’t more even better? Not necessarily! The minimum recommended amount of exercise per week is 150 minutes of aerobic plus 2 strength training sessions. This amount supports heart health, improves circulation of blood in the body, decreases resting heart rate, regulates weight, increases bone density, increases muscle mass, decreases risk of many medical issues (such as diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke) and overall increases one’s mood and quality of life. However, when someone exercises too much- these benefits diminish. Too much exercise may actually cause hardening of blood vessels, an increased resting heart rate, adrenal fatigue, hormone dysregulation, weight gain, break down of bones and muscles, increased risk of heart disease, physical injury, depression, fatigue and moodiness. When we workout we are breaking down our body’s muscles, bones and energy stores, all which will eventually become depleted if they are not given time to rest and recover properly! Our immune system is often impaired as well leading over-exercisers to become sick more often.
It is hard to set a specific number that quantifies how much is
“too much” exercise because everyone’s body and physical capacity varies greatly! Your ability to exercise depends on how long you have been engaging in physical activity, what type of activity you are doing, the frequency/duration/intensity of the workout and how you body responds to physical stress which impacts how quickly you may recover. For most people, a workout of 30-90 minutes per day or most days of the week is a healthy amount. Going longer than 90 minutes per day, however, is getting into the danger zone!
Signs of exercising too much include:
- Constant fatigue and may be unable to sleep
- Constant sore, aching muscles
- Joint or muscle pain
- Increased resting heart rate (heart racing when not working out)
- Increased hunger/ insatiable appetite or decreased/ nonexistent appetite
- Moody- angry, anxious, stressed, depressed
- Frequent illness (catching common colds, flu, etc.)
- No interest in social life
- No interest or joy from workouts
- Increased weight/ fat gain
If you are experiencing any of these signs, then it may be time to take a step back from the gym and enjoy a rest day.
Rest days are just as important for our bodies and health as the actual workout is! During rest days, our bodies are able to recover, replenish and rebuild muscles and bones that have been broken down and stressed during the previous day’s physical movement. When rest days are skipped, the body will just continue to break down muscle tissues and bone cells and never have the opportunity to get stronger! The number of rest days varies based on how intense your workout was on the previous day. Say you did a hard, fast interval sprinting workout or a heavy weight lifting day, you may need a full day of rest to restore those stressed muscles. However, if you did an easy 30-minute swim, you may be able to do a weight lifting workout the following day. Only you can tell when your body needs to rest, so I encourage you to listen and honor your body’s signals! If you are feeling extra sore, tired or just don’t want to do that planned workout, then maybe its time to take a break.
I want to emphasize that rest days don’t necessarily mean “sit on the couch all day with all you can eat access to the pantry”. Rest days can, and should, be minimally active. This means taking a walk around the block, doing an easy stretching, yoga class, riding a bike slowly down the street or playing outside with the dogs or kids. Rest days should not get your heart rate up or put more stress on your muscles! So avoid anything too strenuous to allow your body to heal. On rest days, what you eat is just as important as it is on workout days- and possibly even more important. On rest days, many people report feeling extra hungry, but this is normal as the body is signaling it needs more nutrients to replenish what has been depleted the previous day through activity. Honor your hunger and nourish your body with whole, nutrient dense foods! Carbs, protein and fats should all be eaten in appropriate ratios and amounts which vary from person to person as well by as the workout that was done. If you have done a day of extreme cardio, your body may need more carbs. If you did a heavy weight lifting workout, then protein may be best for your recovery!
Now its time for you to ask yourself, are you over doing it in the gym? Have you been engaging in too much activity? Thinking that more is better? If so, then take a break! I promise you, by doing so, your mind and body will thank you! You will feel stronger, happier and healthier by taking a day to recover and replenish those hard working muscles! And you may actually meet the fitness or weight goals you are striving for!
If you would like personal advice on how to best fit moderate exercise and rest days into your life, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
-Happy Eating (and Exercising)! Kristin-