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Effects Of Over Exercising On Health

Section 1: Introduction

Exercise is one of the powerful therapies for preventing the onset and slowing the progression of various diseases and improving our overall health.

There is unquestionable evidence showing the beneficial effects of exercise both to prevent and to treat several diseases prevalent around the world. Researchers have shown that both women and men who reported increased levels of physical activity and fitness have reductions in relative risk of death (by about 20%–35%)[1]

There is no doubt that exercising and working out offers many amazing health benefits. However, experts say that excessive exercising or over exercising could have negative side effects and some of which are pretty serious.

Most people suffer from a lack of exercise, but there are some who get addicted and end up exercising too much. Even though there are endless benefits of exercising, but too much of anything can be harmful. This is why it is important that you give the body a much-deserved break when it needs to rest after workouts.

Facts About Exercise and Health

However, as with any pharmacological agent, a safe upper-dose limit potentially exists, beyond which the adverse effects (musculoskeletal trauma, metabolic derangements, CV stress, etc.) of physical exercise training may outweigh its benefits.

A very large recent study has found out that in sedentary individuals, even a modest dose of Physical Activity, as little as 15 minutes per day, confers substantial health benefits and that these benefits accrue in a dose-dependent fashion up to about an hour per day of vigorous Physical Activity, beyond which more Exercise training does not yield further benefits[4]

  • Exercise is the most frequently prescribed therapies both in health and disease.
  • The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has recommended that adults should do at least 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity exercises, or 75 minutes a week of vigorous-intensity aerobic activities.
  • Vigorous-intensity exercises include running, biking, swimming, exercise or dance classes, and strenuous sports.[10]
  • Moderate-intensity activities include walking, hiking, golfing, home exercises, and gardening.[10]

Health Promotion, Health, And Exercise

  • Health promotion is defined as the art and science of helping people modify their lifestyles to move towards attaining a state of optimal health.[1]
  • The World Health Organization defines health as the physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease and infirmity.[1]
  • Physical fitness is stated as the physiologic state of well-being that enables one to meet the demands of daily living that are health-related physical fitness or that provides the basis for sports performance that is performance-related physical fitness or both.
  • There is a clear line difference between the two terms; physical activity that is defined as any bodily movement, and exercise that is defined as a subset of physical activity that is characterized by a planned and purposeful training.[1]

Exercise Addiction

  • It is well known that regular and daily physical activity helps improve overall health and fitness and reduces the risk of many chronic diseases.
  • Regular physical exercise has been proved to promote psychological and physical health and to improve the quality of life. However, excessive exercise might be harmful.
  • Indulging in uncontrollable excessive exercise may bring about several adverse effects such as increased susceptibility to sports injuries or social-occupational dysfunction and various other diseases.
  • For example, overtraining increases the risk of acute exercise injuries such as nausea and emesis, chest distress, chest pain, hypoglycemia, apopsychia, arrhythmia, and even sudden death).
  • It can also cause chronic musculoskeletal pain and injury and lead to a malfunction of the human immune system.[3]

This phenomenon is commonly referred to as “exercise addiction or EA.” EA is defined as a loss of control over one’s exercise behavior, which further becomes a compulsion in which the symptoms of a classical addiction are manifested.[3]

Exercise often releases endorphins and dopamine. These are the same neurotransmitters that are released during drug use. An exercise addict often feels reward and joy when exercising. When they stop exercising, the neurotransmitters also go away. An addict has to exercise more to trigger the chemical release.[3]

In this article, we will further discuss various ways and outcomes in which exercise can even worsen our health, if not done in a controlled manner.

Section 2: Effects Of Over Exercising On Health

Effects Of Exercising On Cardiovascular System

Increased shear stress during exercise improves our vascular homeostasis by both decreasing reactive oxygen species and increasing nitric oxide bioavailability in the endothelium. While these observations are well accepted as they apply to individuals at risk for cardiovascular disease, less is known about how exercise, especially intense exercise, affects vascular function in healthy individuals.

  • Exercise is one of the major components of a healthy lifestyle, and the benefits of regular physical activity are well established. However, a physical activity sometimes is accompanied by certain arrhythmias that can either be premature beats or atrial fibrillation (AF).
  • The hypothetical scientific background predisposes that there is some connection between physical activity and atrial fibrillation.[2]
  • Studies in endurance runners have shown that the frequency of adverse cardiovascular events in marathoners is almost equivalent to that in a population with established Coronary Heart Disease, suggesting that too much exercise may be detrimental.
  • An upper limit for the cardiovascular advantages of physical activity is further supported by a recent study that showed that individuals who completed at least 25 marathons over a period of 25 years have shown higher than expected levels of coronary artery calcification (CAC) and calcified coronary plaque volume when compared with sedentary individuals.
  • A recent investigation showed that individuals who maintained very high levels of physical activity (~3 times recommended levels) have higher odds of developing Coronary Artery Calcification and particularly in white males.[8]
  • It has also been shown that the 30-minute exercise sessions produced less oxidant stress and improved arterial elasticity, whereas excessive exercise such as 60-minute sessions worsened oxidant stress and increased vascular stiffness as measured by pulse wave velocity, mainly in the older patients.[4]

Effects Of Exercising On Depression

  • Excessive physical activity can lead to overtraining and also generate psychological symptoms that may mimic depression.
  • Several different psychological and physiological mechanisms have been proposed to explain the effect of physical activity on mental health disorders.[5]
  • Studies in the domain of what is also known as ‘Overtraining Syndrome’ shows that people who over-train may portray the same biochemical markers as those with clinical depression. For example, the emission of serotonin and tryptophan are altered by both the disorders. Behaviourally too, the clinically depressed and the overtrained were perceived to have lowered motivation, insomnia, and irritability.[11]

Effects Of Exercising On Osteoarthritis

A new study also shows that middle-aged men and women who engage in high levels of physical activity at home and at work, as well as at the gym can unwillingly damage their knees and increase their risk for developing osteoarthritis.

Knee injuries are also more common and more severe among those who are engaged in the highest levels of physical activity, says Christoph Stehling, MD, of the University of California, San Francisco, and the University of Muenster, in Germany [6]

Menstrual Problems In Women

  • In women, over-exercising along with undereating or the amount of training they are doing can lead to amenorrhea that is classified as no menstrual period for three months or more;
  • For women with amenorrhea, which is caused by an energy imbalance, this can lead to a higher risk for low bone mass, leading to weakened bones, which is called osteoporosis.
  • This type of bone density loss can cause an increase in the risks of fractures, along with stress fractures.[7]

Effects Relating To Hormonal Dysfunction.

Overtraining can exert a negative effect on the stress hormones such as cortisol and epinephrine. This hormonal imbalance can lead to an emotional disability, bouts of irritability, trouble with concentration, depression, and difficulty with sleep or insomnia.[9]

Anorexia Related Effects Of Exercising

Hormone imbalance severely impacts the hunger and satiety processes within the body. Although increased exercise should boost hunger, excess exercise can do the contrary. Consequently, weight loss can also become a serious issue in those who over-train or over-exercise.[9]


Rhabdomyolysis is the breakdown of the skeletal muscle. Some degree of rhabdomyolysis can be expected with certain types of very intense exercises. But, with overtraining syndrome, high levels of rhabdomyolysis can also lead to renal failure.[9]

Impaired Metabolism

Low availability of energy over a long period of time can negatively affect various organ systems and lead to iron deficiency anemia, along with low testosterone levels in men, and also low bone density can occur due to excessive exercising.[9]

Poor Immunity

Excessive exercising can wear down the immune system, making it harder to stave off infections like upper respiratory infections.

It increases cardiovascular stress. With over-exercising, even simple workouts can become more effortful. Specifically, the baseline heart rate rises in those who experience overtraining syndrome, and it can be very difficult for heart rate to return to normal after exercise, along with longer periods of rest needed.[9]

Decreased Performance

One of the cardinal signs of excessive exercising is decreased athletic performance, regardless of increased training intensity or volume. This performance decreases and can be related to impaired agility, slower reaction times, reduced running speeds, and decreased strength or endurance. Also, overtraining or excessive exercising can lead to loss of motivation in the person.[9]


Excessive fatigue also accretes in your system when you don’t have time to properly recover from continual exercise and refuel your body. Moreover, if you’re exercising too much and constantly expending calories, “low energy availability” can result, which is due to the body depleting its own energy stores.[9]

Chronic Injury

Muscle and joint overutilization eventually lead to full-time aches and pains. If these injuries persist for more than two weeks, as can happen with OTS, the injury may be substantial and warrant medical attention.[9]

Constant Muscle Soreness

It is one of the signs that you are exercising more than the limit. Joints, bones, and limbs can start to hurt when there is an overuse of the muscles. Whether a person is working out with weights or doing cardio of any kind, make sure you give your body enough time to revive and avoid over-exercising.[12]

Section 3: Conclusion

“Individuals should be exercising because of the many proven benefits exercising has. When exercise starts to become compulsive or is done in secrecy, red flags start to appear,” Spendlove said.[7]

If an individual finds that his body is displaying any of the symptoms, perhaps it is the time to listen to it and slow down the pace and give it the rest it deserves by doing something not as strenuous and giving the body time to heal.

Therefore, a person should always exercise up to an optimum level.

Also, consultation from a trainer who can guide an individual and create a program that does not overstress one’s body and compromise with the health.


  1. Vina, J., Sanchis‐Gomar, F., Martinez‐Bello, V., & Gomez‐Cabrera, M. C. (2012). Exercise acts as a drug; the pharmacological benefits of exercise. British journal of pharmacology, 167(1), 1-12.
  2. Stirbys, P. (2013). How much exercise is too much. Journal of atrial fibrillation, 5(5).
  3. Chen, W. J. (2016). Frequent exercise: A healthy habit or a behavioral addiction?. Chronic diseases and translational medicine, 2(4), 235-240.
  4. O’Keefe, J. H., Patil, H. R., Lavie, C. J., Magalski, A., Vogel, R. A., & McCullough, P. A. (2012, June). Potential adverse cardiovascular effects from excessive endurance exercise. In Mayo Clinic Proceedings (Vol. 87, No. 6, pp. 587-595). Elsevier.
  5. Paluska, S. A., & Schwenk, T. L. (2000). Physical activity and mental health. Sports medicine, 29(3), 167-180.
  6. https://www.webmd.com/osteoarthritis/news/20091130/too-much-exercise-may-pose-arthritis-risk
  7. https://www.huffingtonpost.com.au/2017/08/06/how-much-exercise-is-too-much_a_23064102/
  8. Nystoriak, M. A., & Bhatnagar, A. (2018). Cardiovascular effects and benefits of exercise. Frontiers in cardiovascular medicine, 5, 135.
  9. https://www.mdlinx.com/article/9-adverse-health-effects-of-too-much-exercise/70VZzE7JPAtHBOXq4O8Ltw
  10. https://www.healthline.com/health-news/can-exercising-too-much-cause-heart-health-problems#2
  11. https://www.telegraph.co.uk/health-fitness/body/much-exercise-bad-gut-dangers-training/
  12. https://www.onlymyhealth.com/health-slideshow/over-exercising-negative-effects-of-exercise-1393673551.html
Sheetal DeCaria, M.D.
Sheetal DeCaria, M.D.
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Sheetal DeCaria, M.D. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:May 29, 2020

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