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How much exercise is too much?

By October 26, 2008 - 11:45am
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How much should you really exercise? I love to do aerobics and weight lift but how much is too much? I tend to do aerobics for 45 minutes per day, run on a treadmill for 30 minutes and weight lift. Is this too much?

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Hi, Cindy:

If you are doing all of the exercises you stated on a daily basis, you probably are doing too much and opening yourself to overuse injury.

While cardio and strength training can be safely done on the same day, you still need to allow your body time for rest and recovery, and only certain strength training should be done the same day in order to avoid stressing your body too much. Your muscles need time to repair and recover after strenuous activity, so you need to intersperse time off from hard exercise.

Flexibility is needed as much as strength, but I can't tell if you're including any stretches before or after your aerobics.

A good program alternates days of cardio/aerobics and X-training for strength/resistence with ample time for rest and recovery. When do you take a day off?

October 29, 2008 - 5:06pm

Hi, Cindy. I can actually identify with your desire to work out every day, though it may be for other reasons than you have. I have found many times in my life that if I go every day, then it's simple: I go every day. And then if I take a day off, for some reason I get discouraged (as though I was "bad" in some way) and it's hard to get back the next day.

In short, in times like that I'm exercising daily because to take a day off seems to threaten my whole program. It's sort of a negative reinforcement of the "a body in motion stays in motion, a body at rest stays at rest" law.

I have learned that taking a break is a learned skill. It's not something that comes naturally to me. I have to practice it. I have to do it deliberately, with thought and postive reinforcement: It's good for me. It's good for my muscles. It's good for my brain. And it's really good in helping to stop "all or nothing" thinking (which I fall into very easily).

Do you recognize yourself or your thinking here at all? Or are you making some sort of progress (with weight loss, for instance) that makes you feel you will lose momentum if you do less? Then try, deliberately and carefully, to skip just one day a week for starters. Perhaps you can still use that time in a healthful way -- meditation, for instance, or grocery shopping for healthy foods -- so that it still represents time you've set aside to take care of your body and mind. Your muscles will appreciate the break!

October 28, 2008 - 8:20am

Hi Cindy,

1.25 hours of cardio everyday does sound like a lot, plus weight lifting. The more important question is: are you allowing your body some rest & recovery time? R&R is not for wimps--it is necessary for runners (treadmill or outdoor) to allow their body at least one day of rest per week to avoid overuse injuries. I assume you are alternating days in which you lift weights for specific muscle groups, as muscles become stronger during their recovery period, too.

Some important questions to ask yourself:
1. What are my exercise goals? (training for Olympics? marathon? weight loss? healthier heart? lower cholesterol?)

2. Do I exercise everyday, even when I am sick or have an illness?

3. Do I feel guilty if I miss a workout?

4. Does working out get in the way of other aspects of my life?

5. Have my friends or family commented on their concern of my over-exercising?

6. Am I properly fueling my body with balanced & healthy meals to compensate for the amount of calories I expend everyday?

7. Does exercising consume most of my thoughts, feelings and (non-exercise) behaviors throughout the day?

8. How do I feel before, during and after exercising? Anxious, panicked, stressed? Determined, happy, relaxed?

As you know, too much of a good thing is still...too much.

If you have a good outlook on exercise, enjoy it for the health benefits and stress-relief it provides; maybe it is a good transition to/from work most days, and also are able to take a day off (guilt-free!) to let your muscles heal and recover (to prevent injury), and do not let exercise dictate your life...your motives may be in the right place to exercise most days of the week (notice: I still did not say "every" day!)

October 26, 2008 - 6:14pm
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