How Harmful is TOO Much Exercise?

Posted in: Exercise

Susan Ohtake, CPT

Exercise has tons of health benefits, however, there is also such thing as over training. Too much exercise can actually have a negative effect on your body.

When you exercise you are putting stress on your body. When your body is under too much stress for a long period of time, your body begins to release more cortisol. Cortisol is a hormone that regulates your body’s nutrients in stressful situations. When these cortisol levels are increased too much, it will also put your body into a catabolic state.

In a catabolic state, your body thinks it’s starving and goes into survival mode, it will begin to eat your muscle and store fat to live off if you don’t consume more calories than you’re expending during exercise and daily activities. This will eventually result in loss of muscles which in return means loss of strength as well as a slower metabolism.

Higher cortisol levels can actually reverse the effects of proper exercise. You can experience side effects such as: decrease in strength and muscle mass, decrease in immune system function, reduced exercise capacity, and impaired memory and mental function. A proper workout routine with more than one type of activity will actually increase these levels instead.


Long amounts of exercise can reduce your body’s ability to recover over time, which will result in becoming more susceptible to injuries. For example, runners who run for hours at a time tend to experience injuries like shin splints or ankle and foot pain. As you age, your joints will also deteriorate faster because they’ve been put under too much stress. Aging is already complicated enough, we don’t make it worse by over exercising!

Too much of the same activity can also cause overuse injuries. This is why it’s recommended that athletes of all ages participate in multiple sports. If a baseball player plays baseball year round his throwing arm will eventually get tired and he will become more susceptible to an injury. It’s the same as working a desk job for 30 years, you do the same thing 8 hours a day 5 days a week for 30 years and you become more prone to carpal tunnel, back pain, and bad posture.

Whereas, if this baseball player also plays football and basketball, he will be using different muscle groups and different types of training for each sport. By playing basketball and football he is giving his throwing arm a break from the repetitive motion. Instead of wearing out the same muscles over and over again, he will be training new ones and using the same arm, but in different movements.

How to Avoid Excess Exercise

Overtraining tends to occur when you do too much of one activity like in the above example. There’s no definitive answer to how much is too much exercise. It varies by each individual’s age, sex, diet, and workout preference. 150 minutes of moderate exercise a week is the recommended minimum for the average adult.

High intensity interval training is a great way to avoid accidentally overtraining. Instead of staring into space or at a screen on a treadmill for 90 minutes, you can do HIIT for 30 minutes a day 5 days a week to reach your weekly 150 minutes.

HIIT is more efficient in that you get more work done in a faster amount of time. By utilizing different exercises that require multiple muscle groups and full body movements at faster paces, you burn more calories in less time.

In one case study, researchers found that 30 minutes of HIIT burns 25-30% more calories than other forms of exercise. That’s 1/3 the time of a traditional cardio workout and you’ll be burning more calories. So why keep wasting your time doing the same motions on the cardio machines? There’s really no good reason not try a high intensity workout! Take some of the stress out of your busy lifestyle and try HIIT. I promise you will look and feel fit and you will not regret all the time you’re saving.


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