It is well-known that exercise decreases the incidence of disease and enhances an individual’s quality of life. But is it possible to have too much of a good thing? When it comes to physical activity, the answer is yes. Over-training occurs when a person exercises too frequently without adequate time for their body to rest and recover.
When it comes to making a healthy lifestyle change, it is very important to be realistic. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends a total of 150 minutes of physical activity per week. If we break that down, we need to be physically active for 30 minutes a day, five days each week. This recommendation is a general recommendation for the average American to maintain overall cardiovascular health and wellbeing. A person may have to work-out for a longer duration depending on their fitness goals. Increased physical activity is often where problems occur.
New fitness goals are frequently accompanied by a large sense of motivation, drive and determination. This is in no way a bad thing. However, when this enhanced enthusiasm for fitness leads to overtraining, an individual may experience exhaustion, burn-out or worse yet, injury.
Our bodies adapt very quickly to any stimulus we present it. After about four to six weeks, your body will adapt to your fitness routine if you do the exact same thing consistently. This is where individuals experience a plateau effect. When a plateau is reached our exercise routine must be altered in-order to continue to see progress. Most often individuals feel that if they do MORE, they will burst through this wall. Which may be true, however, our bodies can only take so much wear-and-tear before they start to rebel.
There are several side-effects to over-training. Without proper rest and recovery time, your body will begin to give-out. Knee, low back and shoulder are some of the more common injuries experienced from over-training. When you’re injured, you can’t maintain a consistent physical activity level and your body will begin to relapse. Stress on our bodies, whether it is physical or mental, increases levels of the hormone, cortisol. Increased cortisol levels lead to the accumulation of body fat, especially in our mid-section. Often times when regression in our progress is observed, we are disappointed and depression may set in.
The ultimate goal for any person should be to create a lifestyle that you can maintain long-term. If you are working out twice a day or for hours at a time, are you going to be able to continue to do so? Once your activity level declines (granted you keep your nutrition the same as when you were more active), your body will begin to lose its muscle mass causing you to regain some of your fat deposits. There are ways to challenge your body without leading to over-training and its negative side-effects. Some of those methods are interval training, supersets, and drop-sets. It is always a good idea to consult a certified fitness professional to ensure proper execution of these advanced techniques.
Be safe. Avoid over-training. Train smarter, not harder.