Are you working out too much?

working out too much

Although it’s good to exercise regularly, working out too much could work against you. A new study found that older women (ages 60 to 72) who worked out two to four times a week burned more calories each day and found exercise more pleasurable than those who worked out more.

Past studies have found exercising vigorously almost every day causes some people to be less physically active overall compared to those who exercise less. Researchers suggest constant vigorous exercise sends messages to the brain that the body is overdoing it and needs rest, which may cause fatigue or lethargy. For example, vigorous exercisers may take the stairs less, be more inclined to drive instead of walk, or park close to the entrance of a store instead of traversing the parking lot.

Working out fewer days per week showed more benefit

In the study, researchers divided the women into three groups who jogged, walked, cycled and lifted weights. One group worked out twice a week, one group four times a week, and the third group six times a week.

Some interesting results emerged from the study. The group exercising twice a week showed the same gains in fitness as the groups who worked out more often. However, the group working out four days a week burned the most calories per day, an additional 225 calories outside of the exercise session.

Frequent exercisers burned out and burned fewer calories

What is more surprising is the group who worked out six times a week burned 200 fewer calories a day than before they began.

Apparently, the six-day-a-week group suffered burnout. They complained the exercise schedule took up too much of their time and made them feel pressured. As a result, they made lifestyle choices that were quicker but more sedentary, such as driving or taking the elevator instead of walking or taking the stairs.

The other two groups reported feeling more energized and capable. They started taking the stairs over the escalator, walking regularly for pleasure, and incorporating more activity into their lives in general.

In conclusion the group working out four days a week experienced the most benefits, but those working out only twice a week came pretty close.

Over exercising can do more harm than good

Of course, if you enjoy working out six days a week and it does not negatively affect you, then there is no need to work out less. Regular physical activity has been shown to lower the risk a long list of chronic diseases, including depression, heart disease, and diabetes.

However, overtraining can deplete hormones, depress immunity, lead to bone loss, increase the risk of injuries, slow healing, increase inflammation, and cause a general feeling of burn-out.

Overtraining causes your body to pump out extra cortisol, a hormone secreted by the adrenal glands that helps us cope with stress. High cortisol can cause bone loss and muscle breakdown, create belly fat, increase sugar cravings, and lead to insulin resistance, a pre-diabetic condition that causes high blood sugar.

Some people who overtrain suffer from low cortisol, which can lead to weight gain, fatigue, low blood sugar (with dizziness, light-headedness, and irritability), muscle weakness, difficulty recovering from workouts, and poor immune strength.

Symptoms of overtraining

Symptoms of overtraining include:

  • Persistent tiredness
  • Worsening strength and stamina
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Slow recovery
  • Aching joints or limbs
  • Injuries
  • Frequent illness

Sufficient recovery between exercise sessions and exercising at an appropriate intensity will get you fitter faster without compromising your health.

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Overtraining: Too much of a good thing

Overtraining-adrenal cortisol-belly fat

Mary was a mother of two who began a vigorous exercise program of weight lifting and running, one to two hours a day, six days a week. Not only did she fail to lose weight, she actually gained weight, and found herself battling fatigue, irritability, and constant colds and flus. As it turns out, Mary was exercising too much.

Overtraining weakens the body

While regular exercise is vital to good health, studies show overtraining can actually deplete hormones, depress immunity, lead to bone loss, increase the risk of injuries, slow healing, increase inflammation, and cause a general feeling of burn-out.

Sufficient recovery between exercise sessions and exercising at an appropriate intensity will get you fitter faster without compromising health.

Overtraining and high cortisol

Overtraining causes your body to pump out extra cortisol, a hormone secreted by the adrenal glands that helps us cope with stress. High cortisol can cause bone loss, and muscle breakdown, create belly fat, increase sugar cravings, and lead to insulin resistance, a pre-diabetic condition that causes high blood sugar.

Overtraining and low cortisol

Some people who overtrain suffer from low cortisol, which can lead to weight gain, fatigue, low blood sugar (with dizziness, light-headedness, and irritability), muscle weakness, difficulty recovering from workouts, and poor immune strength.

American life is already stressful

Clearly, neither high nor low cortisol produces the desired effects of an exercise regime, and both cause a chronic inflammatory state that ages you quickly. Throw in other factors of modern American life—stressful lifestyles, too little sleep, poor diets, too many sweets and caffeine—and overtraining can be the tipping point into cortisol-driven disorders.

Symptoms of overtraining

How much exercise is too much? This varies from person to person. Overtraining for one person can be another person’s warm up. An adrenal salivary panel will show you your cortisol levels, but it’s especially important to pay attention to signals from your body, which is harder than it sounds for the driven athlete accustomed to pushing the envelope.

Symptoms of overtraining include persistent tiredness, worsening strength and stamina, sleep disturbances, slow recovery, aching joints or limbs, injuries, and frequent illness, to name a few.

Exercise should boost energy, not drain it

Appropriate exercise boosts your energy and your sense of well-being. And while some muscle soreness is normal, you should experience energy, mental focus, and a good mood during recovery periods between workouts.

Ask us about an adrenal cortisol panel to help you establish and appropriate intensity level for your workouts.