So you have made this commitment to get in shape. You want to get in shape as fast as possible and start working out every day. You think more is better so you start having longer workouts or multiple workouts each day. Over time you begin to realize that you are feeling more tired, becoming more irritable, getting sick more often, having difficulty sleeping, or even feeling a bit depressed. You feel like you aren’t able to workout at the same level anymore and need to rest for longer periods of time during exercise. You are feeling burned out, getting more injuries, and losing the motivation to exercise.
All of these symptoms are signs of over-exercising. We know that increasing our physical activity has many health benefits such as lower risk of obesity, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and many types of cancer. Canadian physical activity guidelines for adults 18 and older suggest at least 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous aerobic activity per week for periods of 10 minutes or more. However, too much exercise can lead to problems. Listening to your body and being aware of when you need rest to recuperate are key to avoiding over-exercising.
There are other things that you can do to reduce your risk of over-exercising. Don’t exercise when you are feeling unwell or under lots of stress. Get more sleep every night (7-9 hours are recommended for adults), drink more water when you exercise, and maintain a healthy, balanced diet. Take a rest day, or a day of more leisurely activity, every three to five days of exercising. If you need to exercise multiple times a day, try to rest at least six hours between workouts.
If you end up feeling any of the symptoms of over-exercising, cut back on exercise or take a break for one to two weeks. During this break, you could incorporate some “active rest” days such as going for a relaxed walk, doing some gentle stretching, or doing some slow dancing if your body feels up to it. If you still feel exhausted after two weeks, you should see your family doctor.