Can you exercise too much, and if so, how much is too much? Over-exercising is a thing, and hitting the gym too often can hurt your fitness goals. Like most things, balance is key. In this article, we’re talking about the impacts of over-training and how to find your sweet spot to reach all your health and body goals.
How Much Exercise is Too Much Exercise?
When it comes to movement and training, you might think the more the better, but that’s a myth. Exercising too much for too many months at a time can put your body at risk of overtraining syndrome.
What is overtraining syndrome?
When you exercise, you’re breaking down muscle fibers. Which, most of the time, is a good thing because the body works to repair them and rebuild them to be stronger than before. But for the repair process to work properly, you need proper nutrition, sleep, rest, and recovery. When you overtrain, you aren’t giving your body enough time to rest and recover correctly.
There is also Addison-Type overtraining syndrome, where the adrenal glands can no longer maintain proper hormone levels. Because overtraining impacts cortisol levels, it impacts your adrenals (the glands where cortisol is secreted). If you chronically overtrain, it can result in adrenal depletion, which can look like extreme fatigue, brain fog, anxiety, depression, and more, the opposite of what we want when we exercise! Exercise is a great way to elevate mood, gain clarity, and promote energy. If you are exercising too much, you’ll miss these effects.
Am I Exercising Too Much?
A good rule of thumb is that if you ask yourself if you are exercising too much, you probably are. While there is no way to truly and qualitatively answer this question because there are so many factors in the equation (think nutrition, intensity, stress, age), there are some common signs and symptoms to keep an eye out for:
You’ve hit a plateau
Believe it or not, working out too much can stall progress. If you want to lose weight, build more muscle, run faster, etc.— overtraining syndrome will get in the way. The “more is better” approach can also lead to a lack of motivation and injury. While plateaus are normal for reasons like you are doing the same type of exercise or not eating correctly, overtraining is one that is often overlooked.
Another factor of plateauing that can also be caused by overtraining is lack of quality sleep. If you aren’t getting 7-8 hours of good quality sleep, your body can go into stress mode, resulting in unwanted belly fat.
It’s essential to allow your body to rest and recover fully, and to not overwork it, for you to reach your #gymgoals.
You’re not sleeping/Insomnia
Piggybacking on that last point, poor sleep may mean you are exercising too much. Usually, when you get good exercise in, the better you sleep. But in the case of over-exercising, the opposite rings true. When you exercise too much, your parasympathetic nervous system (rest and digest) stops operating correctly, and your cortisol levels are sky-high right before you go to sleep. Allowing your body time to get into rest and digest mode is essential before you hit the hay.
You’re gaining weight
It can be so frustrating working out 7 days a week to lose weight, but instead, you gain weight! What gives? When you are in overtraining syndrome, your body is in a constant state of stress. When you are constantly stressed, cortisol levels get all out of whack. Good cortisol levels are crucial for proper metabolism and for losing stubborn fat.
Not only can overtraining syndrome reduce motivation, but it can also impact mental health, making you feel crankier, angrier, and more irritable. This is also a sign that your adrenals are fried. As we learned earlier, overtraining wreaks havoc on the adrenal glands. To keep your stress levels and mood stable, keep exercise in balance.
You Have Prolonged Muscle Soreness
A little bit of soreness the day after an intense workout is normal. But soreness that lasts for more than three days is a sign that you are overdoing it. This is especially important to take note of if your workout isn’t intense.
Your Appetite Has Changed
A good workout should equal a hungry human. If you are overtraining, you may not feel hungry. On the other hand, it may make you want to binge nonstop.
You Experience Injuries
If you find yourself getting injured from your workouts despite good form and not training beyond your known capability, overtraining syndrome could be why.
Listening to your body
If you’re still in the dark about if you’re overexercising after that list, the most important thing you can do is listen to your body. What is your body telling you?
- Are you chronically fatigued? Do you often feel weak?
- How is your mental health? Are you feeling depressed, irritable, sad with no known cause?
- If you are young, healthy, and active—do you notice aching pains?
- What do your eating habits look like?
Taking a rest day doesn’t mean you have to abstain from all types of movement. A rest day can look like a leisurely walk, a slow flow, or a good stretch sesh. I hope this article helped you determine if you are exercising too much. Remember, moderation is key, and rest is just as important as movement.