7 warning signs you’re exercising too much

Exercise is essential for good health, but overdoing it can be dangerous. Spot these over-training signs.

24 June 2015
by Glynis Horning

There’s no question that regular exercise, along with sensible eating, is the key to a long and healthy life. But some people can be too rigorous, and the trend to extreme boot camp workouts, high intensity circuit training (HICT), triathlons, marathons and ultra-marathons can put both pro athletes and 'weekend warriors' at risk of injury and serious illness.

If you push too hard and too fast and don’t hit the right balance between exertion, correct nutrition and rest, you begin to break down your body. Look out for these signs of strain:

1. You feel physically and mentally drained

Exercise should build strength and energise you – if you feel exhausted you are overdoing it. Your body is using the adrenaline and nutrition to repair itself but is falling short, with not enough time to recover and repair.

2. You're moody and demotivated

After a healthy workout, endorphins are released and elevate your mood. When you over-exercise, stress hormones (adrenaline and cortisol) are released instead, the nutrients that fuel your body are depleted, and you feel irritable and depressed.

3. Your performance drops

Without enough time to recover and repair themselves between workouts, muscles grow weaker – this is especially noticeable in endurance activities like distance running.

4. Your muscles are sore for days

This means your training intensity has increased faster than your body can handle.

5. You lose your appetite

Your body slows down its metabolism in an attempt to get you to lessen its workload.

6. You struggle to sleep

When your body is over-worked, you become restless and sleep patterns are disrupted. This can be dangerous, as it’s during sleep that your body releases growth hormone to build and repair muscle.

7. You exercise obsessively

This can accompany an underlying eating disorder such as anorexia or bulimia.

Are you an exercise compulsive?

If you answer yes to two or more of the questions below, discuss it with your doctor or a psychologist as you may be exhibiting compulsive behaviour and struggling psychologically and emotionally.

  • Do you exercise when ill or injured?
  • Do you exercise in extreme weather?
  • Do you think about exercise when not doing it?
  • Do you worry about gaining weight when you can’t exercise?
  • Do you avoid or break social engagements to exercise more?
  • Do you feel anxious and irritable when you miss exercise?
  • Do you crave the endorphin ‘high’ you get from exercise?
  • Do you weigh less than average for your height?
  • Do you put more importance on losing weight than on being fit and healthy?

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