The most reliable signs that you are exercising too much come from your subjective feelings of well-being, said Dr Dieffenbach. If you are suddenly tired all the time, or if workouts that seemed easy seem hard to you, or if your performance has dropped unexpectedly (for example, your running times become slower without an explanation, or your daily walk takes longer than usual), it may be time to slow down and rest, said Dr Dieffenbach. Other classic signs of overtraining include trouble sleeping, feeling tired, and an inability to shake off minor colds and other respiratory infections. “Sometimes you have to step back to move forward,” said Dr Dieffenbach.
If you find that you have to force yourself to do exercises that you used to enjoy or feel guilty about not exercising enough, these are other signs that you have overdone. This is especially true if the feelings persist for more than a few days, said Dr Dieffenbach. (Of course, this can also be a sign of other health issues, like depression, so it’s important to keep that in mind as well.)
On the other hand, if you find that your love of exercise is becoming more and more of an unhealthy obsession, you should also pay attention to it, said Szabó Attila, a health psychologist who studies exercise addiction at Eotvos Lorand University in Budapest. Exercise addiction can occur when a person feels pressured to be physically active, even if they are in pain or injury. There isn’t a specific number of hours of exercise per week that would correlate with exercise addiction, one of Dr. Attila’s 2019 studies found, but “it gets problematic when it hurts to other aspects of life, ”he said. If you’ve put exercise ahead of relationships, work and everything in between, Dr Attila added, that’s a sign it’s become too much.
One of Dr Attila’s colleagues, Mark Griffiths, a psychologist at Nottingham Trent University in Great Britain, has developed six criteria that healthcare providers should use when screening for exercise dependence in patients. patients:
1. Exercise is the most important thing in my life.
2. There have been conflicts between me and my family and / or my partner about the amount of exercise I do.
3. I use exercise to change my mood (eg, to create a buzz, to get away from it all, etc.).
4. Over time, I have increased the amount of exercise I do in a day.
5. If I have to miss a workout, I feel cranky and irritable.
6. If I reduce the amount of exercise I do and then start again, I still end up exercising as often as before.
To be classified as addictive, a person would have to meet all six criteria, and that’s rare, Dr Griffiths said. But a lot of people do problematic exercises that don’t quite reach the level of addiction, he added. For example, someone who goes to work and functions normally, but then comes home and neglects their family so that they can go to the gym and exercise – that’s always a problem.
Which brings us to the ultimate answer to our question: Yes, it is possible to exercise too much. And you will know you do it when it destroys your body, makes you sick or injures you or negatively affects the rest of your life. When it stops doing you good and enriching your life, it’s time to cut back.
Christie Aschwanden is a writer based in western Colorado and the author of “Good to Go: What the Athlete in All of Us Can Learn from the Strange Science of Recovery”.