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Overtraining: Warning Signs & Recovery Tips

Overtraining: Warning Signs & Recovery Tips
Dr. Constance Odom, MD Picture of Dr. Constance Odom, MD

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Written by our editorial team.

Last Edited 5 min read

Working Out Too Much

Countless studies have proven that at least a moderate amount of exercise is important for longevity and to reduce your risk of chronic illnesses. But other studies have shown that excessive exercise can actually be harmful for your health and can lead to a wide range of negative health effects. People who become "ÂÂÂÂaddicted"ÂÂÂÂ to working out may be putting themselves at risk of injury and can have chronic health problems sooner than they expect in life. Most people don't need to work out more than once per day for a maximum of about 1 hour, with the exception of athletes and bodybuilders who need to work out as a part of their profession. When you exceed this much exercise in one day, not only can it lead to injury, it can shockingly even lead to weight gain.

Your muscles aren't designed to operate 24/7

One important thing to remember is that your muscles aren't designed to operate 24/7. When you work out multiple times per day, you can be taxing them beyond their capacity no matter how fit or strong you are. When you exercise, tiny tears are created in your muscle fibers, and you have to give them a chance to recover before your next strenuous workout. When you don't give yourself enough time to rest and for your muscles to heal, they won't be able to grow and you can actually start getting weaker. This is one of the main reasons why people who go extreme with exercise and overtrain don't see good results with their efforts. You need to rotate the body parts that you train and give yourself at least a few days of rest between workouts if you are targeting specific muscles. Even some forms of cardio can be hard on your muscles, so if you are sore, always rest up for at least a day.

Working out too much can stress you out

Your body isn't design to continually be exercising, and when you push it to extremes it stresses your nervous system. One of the results of this is the release of the stress hormone cortisol. Cortisol has a wide range of negative effects on the body over a long period of time. It can lead to weight gain, as it triggers the body to store fat. High levels of cortisol have been associated with belly fat, and it can also prevent the release of testosterone which is necessary to build muscle. The stress can also lead to poor eating habits and overeating at your meals. If you find that your stress levels are high and you are exercising regularly, you should definitely consider reducing the frequency of your workouts.

Working out too much can negatively affect your metabolism

When you work out too much your body can become constantly starved of calories, and this can have a dangerous impact on your metabolism. Your metabolism will slow down as your body attempts to conserve energy, and as a result you can put on fat more easily. People who overtrain are at risk of putting on more body fat and slowing down their metabolism to the point where it can be very difficult to stay thin. Women can lose their menstrual cycle when they work out too much as the body attempts to conserve energy. The implications of this can be vast and the increased body fat can lead to chronic illnesses, even if a person looks relatively thin. Diet is an important part of this, and when you're working out you need to make sure that you're eating quality pre and post workout meals.

Excessive exercise may lead to certain heart problems

Some studies are hinting that working out too much may actually lead to heart problems. Studies in mice have found that excessive exercise can affect heart rhythms and that long term strenuous exercise can cause damage to the heart. It should never be mistaken that any form of exercise is better than a sedentary lifestyle, but too much exercise can cause stress related cardiovascular damage. A Swedish study found that young men who participated in endurance exercises more than five hours per week had a greater risk of developing irregular heart rhythms later on in life. More research is needed in this area, but one thing is for sure, you don't want to overdo endurance exercise. Try to limit your exercise to about 150 to 200 minutes per week maximum, and you should split this up over three to four days.

Working out too much burns your energy

Keep in mind that when you work out too much you won't have energy for the other activities in your day. This can actually lead to you being more sedentary than you normally would, as well as overeating to compensate for the lack of energy. You may end up actually putting on weight as a result of overeating because of these bad habits, and of course always feeling tired isn't a good thing. The amount of calories that you burn through your daily activities is substantial, and if working out makes you lazier it can actually have a significant impact on weight gain and. If you find that you don't have the energy to get through your day after working out, try working out in the evening and reducing the duration so that you aren't exhausted during the day when you need energy.

Injuries are common with overtraining

Although it seems obvious to take the precautions to avoid being injured while working out, it is incredibly common for people to overtrain and injure themself in some way. Injuries are possibly the most dangerous potential result of overtraining, and an injury can have a serious impact on your health. Physical injuries can take several weeks or months to heal, they can limit your mobility, and they can make your life a lot more difficult. Since you need to rest after you've been injured, you can easily put on weight, and you may have to stop exercising altogether for a period of time. Back injuries or joint injuries can be particularly devastating and lead to chronic pain and arthritis. You never want to push yourself to the point where you get injured - it completely defeats the purpose of exercising and it will force you to take a break from working out altogether.

Work with a trainer

A good experienced trainer will never push you to the point where you overtrain or injure yourself, and hiring a trainer can be one of the best ways to ensure that you don't injure yourself. It can be difficult to come up with an exercise program for yourself, because it is hard to know your own weaknesses and strengths and capabilities. A personal trainer will be able to evaluate you and tell you exactly where you need to improve, and your trainer will come up with a program that is suitable and customized for you. If you have been suffering from the negative effects of working out too much like injuries, chronic stress, metabolic problems, and other issues, try working with a professional if you haven't before. Group fitness classes are another option if you don't want to shell out the money for a personal trainer.


This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information contained herein is not a substitute for and should never be relied upon for professional medical advice. Always talk to your physician about the risks and benefits of any treatment. Nu Image Medical may not offer the medications or services mentioned in this article.