Health experts usually recommend doing moderate-intensity exercise most days of the week. Surprisingly, it’s possible for you to exercise too much.

If you find yourself consistently tired or experiencing a decline in performance, it might be a good idea to scale back for a while.

Learn to recognize signs of overexercising and how to maintain your competitive edge without overdoing it.

How to Tell If You’re Exercising Too Much Overexercising?

Often happens when people who were previously inactive try too hard to get in shape or lose weight quickly, says Mark Slabaugh, MD. It’s not just about the total amount of exercise but also about increasing intensity too rapidly.

From overtraining to compulsive exercising, there are various ways to overdo it. People who overexercise tend to experience similar signs and symptoms, including:Two women help a man with an injured knee in the park while they were running

  1. Prolonged Muscle Soreness: Post-workout soreness should last no more than four days.
  2. Weakened Immune Response: Getting sick more often than usual is a sign of overtraining.
  3. Increased Injuries: Frequent or recurring injuries may indicate a problem, notes the American Council on Exercise (ACE).
  4. Persistent Fatigue, Irritability, and Low Energy: Feeling excessively tired could mean you’re pushing your body too hard, too fast, according to ACE.
  5. Premature Fatigue in Workouts: Running out of energy early in your workout is a red flag.
  6. Performance Plateaus or Declines: Not seeing progress after a workout may indicate you’re pushing too much.
  7. Elevated Resting Heart Rate: While regular exercise should lower your resting heart rate, overexercising can have the opposite effect, warns the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM).
  8. Prioritizing Workouts Above All Else: Choosing exercise over social activities may indicate an unhealthy work-life balance or compulsion.
  9. Depression or Anxiety: While exercise should boost mood, too much can lead to feelings of sadness or lethargy. Those with overexercising disorder may feel anxious about missing a workout, according to ACE.

Excessive Exercise

For certain people, exercise can turn into a compulsion. This means that exercise stops being a choice and becomes something you feel compelled to do. Here are signs to be aware of:

  1. Feeling guilty or anxious when you skip exercise.
  2. Continuing to work out, even when injured or unwell.
  3. Concern from friends, family, or your healthcare provider about your exercise habits.
  4. Losing the enjoyment you once had in exercising.
  5. Skipping work, school, or social events to prioritize exercise.
  6. Cessation of menstrual periods, particularly in women.

Compulsive exercise may be linked to eating disorders like anorexia and bulimia. It can lead to issues with your heart, bones, muscles, and nervous system.

Young strong female in activewear flipping heavy tire

The Risks of Excessive Exercise

To become stronger and faster, it’s crucial to challenge your body. However, giving your body proper rest is equally important.

Rest plays a vital role in training as it allows your body to recover for the next workout. Insufficient rest can result in poor performance and health issues.

Pushing yourself too hard for extended periods may have negative consequences. Here are signs that you might be exercising too much:

  1. Inability to maintain the same level of performance
  2. Needing longer rest periods
  3. Persistent fatigue
  4. Feelings of depression
  5. Mood swings or irritability
  6. Trouble sleeping
  7. Sore muscles or heavy limbs
  8. Overuse injuries
  9. Loss of motivation
  10. Increased susceptibility to colds
  11. Unintended weight loss
  12. Feelings of anxiety

If you’ve been working out intensely and notice any of these symptoms, consider reducing your exercise or taking a complete break for 1 or 2 weeks. Often, this short rest period is sufficient for recovery.

If fatigue persists after this rest period, consult your healthcare provider. They can guide you on the necessary steps, which may include continued rest or a gradual decrease in workout intensity for a month or more. Your provider will help you determine when it’s safe to resume regular exercise.

What to Do If You’ve Been Exercising Too Much?

If you’ve been overdoing it with your workouts, the good news is that you can reverse the negative effects of overexercising. According to Slabaugh, the first and essential step is to rest.

Take a break from training for one to two weeks. This rest period should be sufficient for your mood, energy levels, and motivation to return to normal. If you continue to experience overtraining symptoms even after this break, it’s advisable to consult your doctor. They can help determine if you need more time off or if there’s an underlying issue that needs attention.

Rupture Concept. Sporty male jogger with muscle ache in calf holding his injured leg, copy space, blurred background

As you resume training after the rest period, avoid jumping back into an intense exercise routine right away. Focus on the following:

  1. Eating Well: Ensure you consume a balanced, nutritious diet that provides the calories your active body needs, advises Slabaugh.
  2. Hydration: Hydrate properly as it is crucial for essential bodily functions. Extra hydration is necessary during exercise and can help alleviate muscle strain and pain.
  3. Sleep: Aim for seven to nine hours of sleep every night, as recommended by the National Sleep Foundation. Sufficient sleep ensures your body has the energy required for your workouts.
  4. Rest and Recovery: Take at least one day off from exercise each week and allow at least 6 hours between workouts for proper recovery.
  5. Avoid Overdoing It: Refrain from exercising in extreme temperatures, whether hot or cold, as it can be more demanding on the body. Additionally, cut back on exercise during periods of high stress in your life.

Getting Help for Exercise Addiction

Identifying exercise addiction can be challenging, as many individuals experiencing it may not recognize any issues with their behaviour. However, untreated exercise addiction can lead to severe physical and mental consequences, including:

  1. Sleep disturbances
  2. Lack of focus, difficulty concentrating, and memory problems
  3. Social isolation
  4. Disordered eating and eating disorders
  5. Infertility
  6. Weakening of bones and loss of bone mass

Fortunately, effective interventions exist for exercise addiction, with therapy being the most common form of treatment. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is typically recommended, as it helps individuals acknowledge the negative effects of their exercise addiction, identifies the underlying thoughts and emotions, and assists in developing healthier coping strategies. A therapist guides the process, challenging maladaptive thoughts and working collaboratively to foster positive changes.

 Final Thought

Exercise can be enjoyable and beneficial when done appropriately, but overdoing it can have negative effects on your physical and mental health, hindering your fitness goals.

Signs of excessive exercise include fatigue, a decline in performance, increased injury risk, changes in appetite, and mood swings. If you notice these signs, consider adding more rest to your routine and allowing time for recovery. Reflect on your reasons for exercising and evaluate if it’s a healthy outlet or if you’re using it to avoid problems or control your body.

If exercise becomes a compulsion that takes precedence over all aspects of your life, you may be dealing with exercise addiction. Despite its challenges, this issue can be successfully treated with the right support. Seek help, as it’s never too late to develop a healthier relationship with exercise.