Can you exercise too much?

Exercise is an essential part of a healthy lifestyle. Taking part in regular physical activities can help both your body and mind.

However, it is also just as important to make sure you are exercising the right way. Working out too much, too often, or with poor form can lead to injury. It can also make any health problems you already have worse.

What Does It Mean to Exercise Too Much?

Exercising too much happens when your exercise is too intense and you do it for too long without proper rest. This makes injury more likely.

Overuse injuries can happen when your exercises push your body too hard. Instead of exercising in a way that builds up muscle strength, you are going past your limits.

This risks injuries that make it harder for the body to recover. It can also cause soreness and pain, which may also lead to injury.

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How Much Exercise Is Too Much?

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services explains in its Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans that exercising is crucial for both children and adults. These guidelines report that you should focus on getting in some amount of physical activity every day. The intensity at which you do this should lie somewhere in the range of moderate to high depending on your age and overall health.

Healthy adults need about 150 minutes of moderate physical activity each week, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. You should tailor your exercise regimen to your athletic ability and fitness goals. If you are just starting to work out or already have a health issue, make sure you take care to pace yourself.

Again, working out for too long or too hard can lead to injury. Always talk to your doctor before starting a new exercise routine, particularly if it’s a strenuous one.

Signs of Overuse Injuries

Overuse injuries can do more than just set you back on your path to a healthier lifestyle. It can also cause injuries to your bones, tendons, and muscles.

One sign of overexercise is that you may feel more soreness than usual in your muscles and joints. You might feel the need to rest for longer before you continue so that your body can recover. You may also find you can’t keep up with the demands of your typical workouts as a result.

Sports can also have significant effects on your joints, muscles, and bones if you overdo it. After you’ve overexercised while playing a sport, you might experience pain when you are playing or exercising (or even when you’re not). Here are some common sport-related overuse injuries:

  • Stress fractures from repeated stress across the body.
  • Tennis elbow or golfer’s elbow from overusing the tendons in your elbows.
  • Achilles tendonitis from a stretch or tear in your Achilles tendon.
  • Shin splints, which runners get when they overload their muscles and put additional stress on their surrounding structures.

Overexercising can affect your mental health as well. If you overexercise, you should ask yourself why you feel the need to do so.

Some people will overexercise as a compulsion. Compulsive exercising is an unhealthy need to exercise. This need arises when exercise is no longer something you want to do but something you need to do instead. Signs of overexercising can include:

  • Feeling guilty if you don’t exercise as much or with as much intensity.
  • Exercising makes you feel depressed and anxious.
  • Exercising even when you are sick or injured.

This kind of exercise can also tie into disordered eating, especially if you notice changes in your appetite or eating habits.

Though you may not experience all of these issues, overexercising increases your likelihood of overuse injuries and other symptoms.

Other signs of overexercising may include:

  • Feeling tired, fatigued, or dizzy.
  • Mood changes.
  • Muscle soreness.
  • Injuries such as sprains, strains, or fractures.
  • Reduced workout performance.

You should contact your health care provider or a mental health professional if you feel you have an unhealthy workout regimen. You should also do this if you notice changes in your mood, appetite, and concentration.

Overexercising Can Affect Previous Health Conditions

Exercising can put you at risk of repeating a past injury. This is far more likely in parts of the body that you’ve already injured than in healthier parts. Paying attention to areas of your body that you’ve already injured in the past is important.

Chronic conditions can also affect your exercise routine. Some conditions that overexercise may negatively affect can include:

  • Heart conditions.
  • Asthma.
  • Diabetes.
  • Pregnancy.

Typically, focusing on light- to moderate-intensity exercise is safe for people with previous health conditions. You should always contact a health care professional if you have questions or concerns about your exercise regimen. You should also contact them to find out how to best work with your health conditions (instead of against them).

How to Avoid Overuse Injuries

You can avoid overuse injuries by exercising with proper form at a comfortable but challenging intensity level.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services says that one minute of a high-intensity activity is usually the same as two minutes of a moderate-intensity one. If you’re showing signs of overexercising after a high-intensity workout, switching to a lower intensity level may help. That way, you can gradually build up the intensity of your exercises over several weeks or months.

In addition to exercises that suit your skills and strengths, try keeping healthy habits in other parts of your life. Some examples of that might include:

  • Resting between exercises or other physical activities.
  • Eating properly and getting enough calories.
  • Drinking plenty of water.
  • Keeping a proper sleep schedule of about eight hours.

Variety is also crucial to avoiding overuse injuries. Overuse injuries typically come from overexerting a specific part of your body. Spreading out exercises across many parts of the body can help to prevent overuse.

Exercise is a healthy habit to maintain in your everyday life. It is important to make sure that you are safe and effective when you work out.

Instead of overexercising, try to make a consistent, gradual exercise plan. This will increase the amount and level of physical activity you do, so you can become stronger and healthier.

If you have concerns about your health, injuries, or exercise regimen, contact your health care provider.

Editor's Note: This article was originally published on , and was last reviewed on .

About Sports Medicine

An athletic lifestyle carries the potential for injury. Whether you’re an elite athlete or a weekend warrior, UPMC Sports Medicine can help. If you are looking to prevent, treat, or rehabilitate a sports injury, our multidisciplinary team of experts can help you get back into the game. If you are seeking to improve your athletic performance, we can work with you to meet your goals. We serve athletes and active people of all ages and experience levels. Our goal is to help you keep doing what you love. Visit our website to find a specialist near you.