Q: I walk about seven miles a day, spend five to six hours a week doing vigorous conditioning exercise, and about four hours a week doing vigorous resistance training. Is it possible to exercise too much? How much is too much?
You’ve probably been told countless times that exercise is good for your health and fitness, so it’s tempting to assume that more exercise is automatically better.
But, as with many good things in life, there comes a point where the utility diminishes, and It is possible to exaggerate.
However, how much physical activity is too much will depend on your particular situation.
How do you know if you are overreacting? (Eileen Son for The New York Times)
The first thing you should ask yourself if you have doubts about how much you exercise is:
“Why exercise?” Benjamin Levine, MD, professor of internal medicine at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center and director of the Institute for Exercise and Environmental Medicine at Texas Health Dallas, said.
If your goal is to improve your health and reduce your risk of a number of conditions ranging from diabetes to heart disease, then 2.5 to 3 hours of moderate to vigorous exercise per week will be most beneficial, Levine says.
“Once you do nearly five hours a week, you no longer exercise for health, you exercise for it performance“.
When you exercise for performance — whether it’s in the gym to get stronger, run a marathon, or improve your tennis — you can stress your body beyond its ability to recover, said Christine Dieffenbach, expert exercise scientist and director of sports. Center for Applied Training and Sports Science at West Virginia University.
When you exercise, your body responds to get stronger, faster and fitter.
These improvements do not occur during the training itself, but during the recovery period.
It happens when your body repairs damage caused by strenuous exercise, such as micro tears in muscle fibers, and makes adaptations, such as increasing energy-producing mitochondria in your cells.
As long as your body can keep up with the repair work, Diefenbach said, your exercise sessions will continue to help you improve your performance.
But when the stress of training builds up beyond your ability to recover, you’ve entered a depletion areaKnown in the sports community as Overtraining.
What makes things difficult is the blurring of the line between hard training and overtraining.
Diefenbach said there is no number or formula that can tell you it’s too much.
Instead, what matters is how do you respond your body to the exercise you are doing.
Dieffenbach suggested thinking of Playing sports and the physical and emotional resources it requires, such as asking for money in a bank.
You only have a limited amount in your budget, and if you try to overspend, you will end up tired, injured, and possibly in a bad mood.
Over time, your exercise budget can change.
As you age, your body requires more time to recover, so it may be necessary to count more hours of rest between hard workouts.
It is also restricted to other things that happen in your life.
Diefenbach said that spending long hours working, traveling or dealing with stressful situations at home can eat up part of your energy budget and reduce your ability to recover from exercise.
A 2016 study of 101 college football players, for example, found that their risk of injurydoubled During times of academic stress (such as mid-term and finals week).
Dieffenbach said the most reliable sign that you’re doing a lot of exercise comes from your subjective feelings of well-being.
If you suddenly feel tired all the time, or if exercises that previously seemed easy feel difficult, or your performance drops unexpectedly (for example if your running times slow down without explanation, or if your daily walk is taking longer than usual), he said Dieffenbach, it may be time to step back and rest.
Other classic signs of overtraining include difficulty sleeping, feeling tired and unable to recover from minor colds and other respiratory infections.
“Sometimes you have to back Dieffenbach said.
If you find that you start forcing yourself to workouts you previously enjoyed or feel guilty for not getting enough exercise, these are other signs that you have overextended yourself.
This is especially true if the sensations last for more than a few days, Diefenbach said.
Of course, they can also be signs other health problems, Like depression, so you also have to take that into account.
On the other hand, if you find your love of exercise turning into a crazy obsession, that’s also worth considering, said Szabó Attila, a health psychologist who studies exercise addiction at Eotvos Lorand University in Budapest.
Exercise addiction can occur when a person feels compelled to engage in physical activity even despite pain or injury.
One of Attila’s 2019 studies found that there is no set number of hours per week that can be associated with exercise addiction, but that “it becomes problematic when it harms other areas of life,” he said.
Attila added that if you put exercise above your relationships, work and everything else, that’s a sign of it It has become too much.
One of Attila’s colleagues, Mark Griffiths, a psychologist at Nottingham Trent University in the UK, developed six criteria for use while monitoring exercise addiction by health professionals:
1. Exercise is the most important thing in my life.
2. I have had disagreements with my family or partner over the amount of exercise I do.
3. I use exercise as a method not moody (eg to escape, experience ecstasy, etc.).
4. Over time I have increased the amount of exercise I do in the day.
5. If I have to skip the exercise I feel jittery and moody.
6. If I reduce the amount of exercise I do and then start over, I will always end up exercising as much as before.
For a person to be classified as an addiction, Griffiths said, they must meet all six criteria, which is very rare.
But he added that many people show problematic exercise patterns, and that doesn’t exactly amount to addiction.
For example, a person who goes to work and works normally, but then comes home and neglects his family to go to the gym to exercise, this is still a problem.
Which brings us to finally answer our question: Yes, it is possible to exercise a lot.
And you will know it when it affects your body, makes you sick or injured, or when it negatively affects the rest of your life.
When it stops making you feel good and enriching your life, it’s time to cut back.
Christie Aschwanden es una escritora que vive en el oeste de Colorado y autora de Good to Go: What the athlete in each of us can learn from the strange science of recovery.
c. 2022 The New York Times Company