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Exercise Addiction: When Exercise Does More Harm Than Good

We all remember that Spice Girls song that goes by the title “Too Much.” While the song talks about relationships, it is pretty much relevant to the topic of this article—exercise addiction.

The vast majority of the population enjoy exercise in moderation. However, a small minority of individuals have deemed exercise addicts or “obligatory athletes.”

According to studies, around 10 percent of high-performance runners and bodybuilders have an exercise addiction. Although doctors only recommend 30 minutes a day of moderate physical activity to stay healthy, exercise addicts tend to think that prolonged exercising, like a two-hour run, makes them four times healthier.

But of course, it does not work that way. Here are some reasons excessive exercise can be detrimental to your health.

Why Some People Are Addicted to Exercise

While health enthusiasts organize exercise based on their lifestyle, exercise addicts center their lives around exercise.

Several factors cause an individual to develop an overtraining syndrome, but one thing is common among these groups of people: their need for control.

Exercise addicts are overly focused on sports that it meddles with their lives. Although it is good to have a healthy routine, being addicted to exercise means repeating behavior patterns that border on self-injury.

It also means exercising even during inappropriate times. For instance, an exercise addict husband would feel the need to go for his daily run even when his wife is in labor.

Society plays a massive role as well as why some people, especially athletes, develop overtraining syndrome. For most women deemed exercise addicts, the idea of being thin is perfection reinforced by society. Starving oneself and exercising excessively are seen as efficient means to achieve this perfection.

Bodybuilder men with overtraining syndrome are usually are preoccupied with their looks. They want to look bigger in muscle size. Since they are preoccupied so much with strength training, they often lose their jobs and relationships.

Just like any other addiction, exercise addiction takes a toll on every aspect of your life, primarily on your health. So let us find out about these adverse health risks.

How Too Much Exercise Can Cause Adverse Health Effects


1. Hormonal Dysfunction

Exercise and other physical activities are designed to relax your body and boost your mood. But when you overtrain, your body tends to produce more stress hormones in your system, namely cortisol and epinephrine.

With an imbalance in your hormonal system, you become more irritable, moody, lacking concentration, and develop difficulty in sleeping.

2. Rhabdomyolysis

Some intensive exercise could result in rhabdomyolysis. Rhabdomyolysis is a syndrome that results from a direct or indirect muscle injury. Dead muscle fibers mix their contents into the bloodstream, leading to serious health complications such as renal failure. In extreme cases, it could result in death.

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3. Impaired Metabolism

Cutting back on calories is part of any weight loss training. However, going too far with exercising and dieting can lead to severe problems affecting your gastrointestinal system.

One study has shown that two hours or more of exercise with a 60% intensity level can result in gut problems regardless of fitness level. These include constipation, irritable bowel syndrome, bloating, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), or worse, colon cancer. So get yourself tested with a home colorectal cancer screening test before it is too late.

4. Cardiovascular Stress

When you overtrain, even the simplest workout feels like you have to put more effort into it. You perceive your body working harder than you need to, even though your body is actually just working at its usual rate.

Individuals with exercise addiction tend to have a higher heart rate than usual when working out. They even have a higher resting rate than an average health enthusiast individual.

5. Fatigue

It is only normal our body feels tired after strenuous activity, like after a workout. However, when you are fatigued, you feel excessively drained, particularly during and immediately after workouts.

Fatigue occurs when your body repeatedly is not given an ample window to recover after workouts fully.

6. Decline in Performance

One of the telling signs of having overtraining syndrome is one’s decreased sports performance. This is particularly true among athletes.

Even with increased training intensity or volume, one’s performance is just significantly low. Decreased performance relates to slower reaction time, impaired agility, decreased running speed, and lowered strength or endurance. Overtraining simply leads to a loss of motivation.

If you happen to suspect yourself to be an exercise addict, try to be more aware of your actions and motivation why you are pushing yourself to the limits. Hopefully, this article helps you start that.

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