Exercise: Can We Do Too Much?

I love to exercise. I’ve always considered myself lucky. I never used to think of exercise as exercise though. I grew up on a farm in Idaho where we were running around all day. From the traditional outside activities like Frisbee, tag, bike riding, etc. to what may be considered more non-traditional activities like swinging from ropes in the barn or jumping off the loft into the hay and having rotten apple fights. In junior high and high school I got into sports and loved playing basketball, volleyball, and running track. I later joined the Marine Corps where my love of fitness continued as I was challenged both mentally and physically to complete various tasks.

Throughout my experience in the military and with high school sports I heard the saying, “No pain, no gain.” This phrase gets used a lot, when it comes to exercise. While pushing yourself can be good when you are exercising, many people tend to push through those daily aches and pains, and disregard any warning signals. When you’re young, you don’t always have aches and pains, but as we age they seem to be inevitable, especially if we didn’t take care of ourselves when we were younger. So should we be “pushing through?” Can too much exercise be bad for us? How do you know when it’s too much?

Well, there are a couple of things to think about. When we exercise we are actually creating tiny little muscle tears that need to heal so we can build muscle. Now that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t continue to workout, but if you do a hard workout one day, it may be best to take a rest day or do an easier workout on the following day. Also, make sure you are balancing all areas of fitness – muscular strength and endurance, cardiovascular endurance and flexibility.

If you are someone who gets up every day and goes for your morning run, but then skips breakfast, or other meals throughout the day, you are missing a key component needed to recover – PROPER NUTRITION! If we are not fueling our body appropriately, we cannot perform at our best.

I think the most important piece of advice I can give is to LISTEN TO YOUR BODY. Pain is a different feeling than the burning feeling we may feel in our muscles when doing a tough workout. It’s okay to be uncomfortable and to “feel the burn,” but if you are in pain, that’s when it’s time to stop. Physical activity can actually help alleviate some of our achiness and stiffness, and help us to feel better. If you don’t feel better during or after your exercise it’s probably time to slow down and get checked out. Overuse injuries such as shin splints, stress fractures, or tendinitis are a sure sign you are doing too much or you’ve started your exercise program too fast.

You don’t have to be a marathon runner or a triathlete. Moving your body some is better than not moving it at all. We should all aim for at least 30 minutes a day of moderate activity and try to limit our time spent sitting. Being physically active doesn’t mean it always has to feel like exercise. Find activities you enjoy and do them.

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