Sherry Torkos, BScPharm
Regular exercise is great for both mind and body and helps keep us youthful and energetic.
Regular exercise is great for both mind and body and helps keep us youthful and energetic. Exercise can reduce blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar levels, keep our bones strong, improve concentration and sleep, and even provide benefits for our immune system.
Yet, with exercise, more is not necessarily better. Experiencing fatigue, pain, or immune-system weakness are signals that something is amiss in our approach to exercise. Over-exercising may be the problem.
Symptoms of Over-Exercising
A healthy level of exercise feels healthy - it energizes, calms, and improves resistance to illness.
Symptoms of over-exercising, on the other hand, don’t feel good at all. These may include:
When the Body Says “No”
Studies have consistently shown that over-training increases our susceptibility to infections, and successive days of heavy training can temporarily impair the immune response, which can make matters worse. Overuse can cause muscle strain, joint pain, and further damage to connective tissues.
Quick decreases in body weight can be problematic, too. Women naturally have a higher body fat percentage than men, and women’s body fat is needed for proper hormone balance and child-bearing. When a woman’s body fat drops too low it can reduce hormone levels causing amenorrhea (suppression of menstrual cycle).
Over-exercising can also cause premature aging. According to Dr. Kenneth Cooper, who has done extensive research on exercise and its effects, “distress” training produces free radicals (oxidants) that alter or destroy cell membranes and tissues.
Getting Back in Balance
Prevention is always better than the cure, so if you are thinking of starting an exercise routine, consult your physician for a clean bill of health and seek a knowledgeable personal trainer who will lead you on a correct path to optimum health and fitness.
If you are already training and suffering with symptoms of over-exercise, take your workouts down a notch by shortening the length or frequency of each of your training sessions. This can be achieved through an occasional low-intensity workout, spacing workouts further apart, or taking days off for further rest and recovery. If problems still persist, consult your physician.
Nutrition and supplementation are key factors for optimum health, performance, muscle growth, and for maintaining or boosting a suppressed immune system. Frequent small meals balanced with adequate amounts of lean protein, low glycemic carbohydrates (e.g., vegetables, whole grains, and fruits such as berries, apples, pears, and plums), and good fats will supply the body with the nutrients it needs to maintain stable energy levels for your workouts. Protein is especially essential for the growth, maintenance, and repair of muscles and production of enzymes, hormones, and DNA.
Supplementing your diet with vitamin C benefits the immune system and also plays a key role in the formation and maintenance of collagen - a protein that is an important component of skin, ligaments, and bones. Minerals such as calcium and magnesium should be taken to support bone density.
Free-radical damage is unavoidable because it is caused by oxygen uptake during exercise. Antioxidant supplements can help protect the body from free-radical damage at the cellular level. Higher dosages are recommended for athletes and those engaged in rigorous activity to protect against tissue damage.
Antioxidants for Exercise
Body and Mind
A healthy approach toward exercise and overall fitness starts with the right frame of mind. The best results come with patience; it may help to remember that over-training actually stalls progress. Create a healthy balance for your body with proper exercise, rest, nutrition, and supplementation. By listening to what your body is telling you, you will avoid the dangers of over-exercising. With your mind and body keeping you strong and healthy, there is no way you can lose in the gym!