Addicted to working out? Learn the side effects of too much exercise that may be impacting your health.


Exercise is typically thought of as a good thing, but did you know that there is such a thing as too much exercise? If something is good, more isn’t necessarily better.

Over-exercise is sometimes the activity of “undoing” something that has been eaten or ridding oneself of guilt from a binge.  While exercise has it’s obvious benefits, over doing it can be detrimental to your health as you put yourself at increased health risks.

But first, what’s considered ‘standard’ exercise recommendations?

The standard recommendation is exercising for about 30-60 minutes a day, 3-5 days a week.  However, exercise recommendations change according to a person’s age, health, body weight, and emotional state. Exercise is not necessarily a one-size-fits-all approach; what is a healthy amount for one person can be a very unhealthy amount for a different individual.

As one of the best physical activities you can do to improve your health, it’s hard to believe that there is such a thing as too much. By exercising too much, you can disrupt the chemical balance in your body that can lead to health issues and stress on the immune system. Over-exercising can also fuel an unhealthy relationship with food, in which one can punish themselves for hours at the gym until they are mentally and physically fatigued.

That is simply not the answer, or the way to use exercise.

So what can happen when you overdo it?

  • Dehydration
  • Insomnia
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Fatigue
  • Amenorrhea
  • Increased cortisol and pro-inflammatory chemicals, which can cause adrenal issues and stress.
  • Free radical release, which is linked to cellular mutations and cancer.
  • Muscular atrophy
  • Skeletal injuries, bone fracture, arthritis, damage to cartilage and ligaments
  • Heart problems
  • Stroke

Beyond that, the way you view physical activity can be just as important as what activity you are doing, how long, and how often. Exercise should be something that you enjoy doing, and not something you have to force yourself to do. You should feel better mentally after exercising, so be aware of the following red flags:

  • Viewing the activity as something you have to do not something you enjoy.
  • Using physical activity to compensate for something you ate that day or plan on eating.
  • Exercising to the point of exhaustion – not allowing yourself to rest or listen to your body when it is telling you to stop.
  • Interferes with your relationships.
  • Affects your mood.
  • Disconnecting from your body during the physical activity.
  • Feeling guilty if you cannot exercise.

The overall goal is to incorporate exercise where you can enjoy it in combination with an overall healthy lifestyle.

Whether it’s swimming, playing tennis, going to yoga, walking in the park, or going to a boxing class, you should find joy in the activities you are doing. You won’t get any added bonuses of stress relief if you hate what you are doing, so consider including family and friends in your exercise to make physical activity and exercise more enjoyable. And last but not least, ask yourself:

Are you in control of your exercise routine, or is it controlling you?

Adapted from the original article.

Marissa Campanella, RDN, LDN is a private practice Registered Dietitian based in Scranton, PA helping people find the balance between healthy and happy.  As a ‘food peace promoter’, Marissa specializes in helping those with food struggles and disordered eating in learning how to enjoy food while leaving guilt and self criticisms behind. Connect with Marissa at Thrive Nutrition.