I’m guilty of hitting 2-hour workouts 7 days a week and thinking I’m doing my body good. I lived that routine for the first 3 years of college, until I realized there’s more to life than the gym, and I actually had to start doing adult things.
Because of aforementioned adult things, (aka my job) I began working out for 1-1.5 hours a day, 4-5 days a week. At first I panicked, truly believing I’d gain weight, lose strength, and never be fit again. But the opposite actually rang true: I began leaning out, feeling better in the gym, sleeping better, and noticing results I never had before.
What in the heck was going on? I decided to do some research.
According to the Mayo Clinic, an average adult should strength train at least 2 days a week and get at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity a week. We should also aim to be active for at least 30 minutes a day – taking the stairs, going for a walk, playing outside, etc. Mayo mentions seeing more results by doubling your activity time and exercising for 300 minutes a week, or 5 hours per week.
Let’s do the math. Previously I was working out for 2 hours per day, 7 days a week. 14 hours per week. Almost 6 times the recommended amount, and 3 times the “advanced recommended” amount. OK WHAT?
This revelation led me to wonder, “What happens when I over train?” So you know what I did – some research.
Here’s what happens to your body when you over exercise:
Hormonal changes. Endurance athletes especially can run into issues with their hormones (think runners, bikers, triathletes). Intense bouts of extended cardio can lead to increased secretion of cortisol (the stress hormone), which can lead to weight gain, increased storage of adipose tissues (fat), and stress. Over-training can also increase the secretion of epinephrine and norepinephrine which both suppress appetite – leading to under eating – leading to more issues.
Immune system changes. Usually your immune system is working hard to keep you healthy and fight off possible illness. However, when your body is overworked and extra exhausted, this same system tries to help recover muscles and bones, putting you at increased risk for sickness.
Musculoskeletal changes. Your muscles and bones experience microscopic damage during exercise – especially weight training. They require 24-48 hours of rest to properly heal and grow. When you don’t give them this rest they’ll become weak, and exercises that were once easy will seem much harder. In other words, you’ll lose gains.
Mood changes. Over-training makes you tired and causes stress, which typically leads to a moody disposition. Nobody likes a grump.
To sum it all up – over-training leads to increased fat storage, more stress, less gains, and possible illness. Exercise is like ice cream: too much of a good thing can be a bad thing.
So take the stairs, hit the gym hard, try a boxing class, ride your bike to work, swim laps, dance the night away, but make sure to take a couple of days off for some much needed rest. Your body and mind will thank you.