Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Exercise - Overtraining Or Addiction?

Is it possible to exercise too much?  I’ve wondered because I notice certain people at the gym all the time, often spending hours there.  In fact, one can exercise too much and even develop an addiction to it.  Yes, it is possible to have an addiction to exercise.  When a person is addicted to exercising, they will get up at 5 AM to run, even if they are sick, hurting, or sore.  Nothing stops them. 

Over exercising refers to doing more than is recommended to be healthy.  Currently, it is recommended people get either 150 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous activity each and every week.  It is when people triple or quadruple the amount of time they work out every day, that one might become concerned.

In fact, over exercising can lead to something called “overtraining syndrome” which can lead to your muscles actually breaking down and due to the amount of working out, your body does not have enough down time to repair them.  Consequently, your body will not get stronger and it will end up in a state of chronic stress.  

It appears that a small percentage of athletes have an addiction.  It is calculated that ten percent of high performing athletes and up to ten percent of serious weight lifters are addicted.  Although people only need about 30 minutes of exercise every day to keep them healthy, addicts figure they need more to get more benefits.  Unfortunately, too much exercising can cause injuries, send someone into depression, exhaustion, or  suicide.  In addition, it can cause lasting harm.

When you exercise, your body produces a specific amount of cortisol and making your exercise sessions longer will not change the amount produced.  One way to tell if a person is addicted is if they organize their lives around exercising.  Most people fit in their exercise around their lives.  

One thing about exercise is that a person can observe results easily and allows them to control that aspect of their life.  This is one trait of an addicted person is the control they have over certain elements of their lift.  Often people addicted to exercise love running or weight lifting because it is a solitary pursuit.  One way to decrease the issues of addiction is to expand the variety of exercise done and make sure some of it is socially based such as yoga or group cycling.  

Please understand, someone who exercises regularly is not necessarily addicted to it because they have to have the right personality traits for that to happen. There are signs to look out for to make sure you are not over training.  If you reach a plateau, which usually means you are not giving your body a chance to properly recover.  In addition, it can make you less fit for the same reason.  Furthermore, when you produce too much cortisol in your body, it can lead to too much weight gain.  If you have sore muscles or 4 to 6 days after a workout, become moody, cannot sleep properly, have an ongoing injury, and your heart rate is out of whack, you could be over training and possibly addicted to it. 

So if you read the symptoms and check yes to several, you might want to step back, slow down, and incorporate down time to help you repair the damage done to your body.  Let me know what you think, I’d love to hear.  Have a great day. 

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