Is Too Much Exercise Bad For You?

I ran one marathon about 10 years ago. I will never run one again.

I now regularly compete in 50 to 100 mile mountain bike races. I enjoy them (as much as you can enjoy an all day suffer fest) and feel that they help motivate me to stay in shape, and they are a good, positive outlet for my competitive nature.

That is why I was interested when recent information came out talking about how too much exercise can be bad for you. The information was published in an editorial in the British medical journal Heart.

The editorial authors reviewed years of research on the effects of endurance sports on the human body. They found that numerous studies showed that while moderate exercise was good for you, excessive exercise was detrimental to one’s health.

In one study that was reviewed from Germany that was published in the European Heart Journal, researchers compared the hearts of chronic marathon runners and sedentary people. They found that the runners had more coronary plaque buildup than those who were sedentary. Coronary plaque buildup is associated with heart disease.

I do agree that too much exercise can be bad for you, but only if you don’t watch what you and don’t watch how you train, and what exercise you are doing.

It is easy to get into exercise and end up doing too much. This can result in becoming over trained. When you are over trained, your muscles will be tight and irritated. You will have a hard time waking up in the morning. You will crave sweets. You will feel muscle fatigue, lactic acid build up and the tell tale muscle burn that accompanies it, while performing normal daily activities that usually wouldn’t tire you out.

When you are over trained, you are more susceptible to spraining, straining or tearing muscles because they will be tight, inflamed and irritated. Therefore the muscles will be more easily injured when stressed.

Here is a great example of this. I used to work on a fullback for the Pittsburgh Steelers. This guy came to see me after he sprained his calf and almost tore his Achilles tendon after he stepped in a ditch he didn’t see. Now this is a guy who regularly hit 300 pound defensive linemen. He hit Ray Lewis of the Ravens so hard that he had to leave the game.

How could a guy so strong be taken down by a tripping over a ditch? He was over trained. This occurred at the end of training camp when he was tired and his body had been put through the ringer for the past 6 weeks. His muscles were tight, spasmed and inflamed. When he tripped as he stepped into the ditch, his calf was already tight and it didn’t take much to tear his already irritated calf muscle.

If this can happen to a big, strong, professional football player, it can happen to any one of us.

To avoid over training, always take at least 1 day off from exercise per week. There are exercise systems out there that don’t have you take any days off, this will result in the muscles getting overused and eventually tightening up and becoming spasmed and inflamed. Even if you alter your workouts, alternating between weight lifting and aerobics, you still have to take at least one day off from all physical activity per week.

During that day off you can certainly stretch. You can even do restorative yoga. But it has to be restorative, not intense yoga that gives you a workout. But you shouldn’t do more than just stretching or light yoga. If you are in good shape you could also do an easy, low intensity, short walk. But not much more.

Another way that over exercising can negatively affect you is that it creates free radicals. Exercising requires fuel. You need fuel to power your muscles through the workout. When your body burns through the fuel, it produces waste products. One of those waste products are free radicals. Any exercise produces some free radicals. Over exercising will produce more free radicals in your body.

A leading theory on aging is free radical based. Free radicals are negatively charged particles that attach themselves to other positively charged particles and molecules throughout your body and cause oxidative stress. These free radicals combine with cholesterol to produce plaque that is then deposited in your arterial walls. The free radicals damage cells through the process of oxidative stress.

It is believed that free radicals accelerate the breakdown of the body, and therefore speeds up aging. Increased levels of free radicals in the body causes an increase in inflammation and speeds up the breakdown (and aging) of the human body.

Cardiologist James O’Keefe, MD, Director of Preventative Cardiology at the St. Luke’s Mid American Heart Institute in Kansas City, and author of the editorial, said that “Your body is designed to deal with the oxidative stress that comes from exercise for the first hour. But prolonged intense exercise causes excessive stress, which basically burns through the antioxidants in your system and predisposes you to problems.”

Anti-oxidants get rid of free radicals. Anti-oxidants are positively charged particles that attach to the free radicals and destroy them. The more anti-oxidants in the body, the better off you will be. Anti-oxidants can reduce inflammation. They can help injuries and sprains and strains heal quickly. They help your body function at a higher level. And it is very hard to overdose on anti-oxidants.

Anti-oxidants are found in almost every fresh fruit and vegetable, with berries having an extremely large amount of them (which is what makes them so healthy). Multi-vitamins are full of anti-oxidants. Most actual vitamins are anti-oxidants.

This is why I recommend everyone take a multi-vitamin. There are some nutritionists who believe that you should get all of your vitamins and minerals and nutrients that your body needs from food. And it is possible, but it is very hard and therefore not very probable. Most of us don’t have the time to make sure that the foods we are eating contain the right amount of vitamins, minerals and nutrients. I know that I don’t, and I have formal training in human nutrition. A multi-vitamin allows you to get the vitamins that you need without micromanaging everything that you eat.

Most vitamins are water soluble, so if you take in too much of a certain vitamin, you will just pee out the excess. You can overdose on vitamins and take toxic levels, but it is hard to do. If you follow the guidelines in the Pain Free Lifestyle Nutrition program, you will be fine.

By taking a daily multi-vitamin and eating fresh fruits and vegetables every day, you will feel better, age  slowly and gracefully, and prevent some of the issues that can come with exercise.

So why won’t I run another marathon that took me 4 hours to run while I regularly do 50 to 100 mile mountain bike races that take 5 to 11 hours to complete? Running is very tough on your body. It is a high impact activity. Every step you take with running will cause some pounding on your ankles, knees and hips. This pounding over time causes the joint to wear down and the joint will eventually break down. This will cause osteo-arthritis, and can eventually cause such damage in the joint that you will need to get it replaced. I feel that most people who run habitually will eventually have to stop running because a joint will wear out. What they will experience is eventual excruciating pain from the joint that will stop the person from being able to run.

I wanted to stop running before I had to. Biking is low impact. I am less sore after biking for 10 hours than I was after running for 4 hours. It takes me less time to recover from a long bike ride than it did for me to recover from a long run. I just don’t see the reason to run when you can do so many other aerobic exercises that aren’t high impact and won’t cause the breakdown of a joint.

Other types of aerobic exercise that are low impact are: elliptical machine, stationary bike, rowing machine, stair master, walking on a treadmill and swimming. Any of these will not cause the breakdown of a joint and eventual arthritis. Prevent pain and arthritis now- do low impact exercises.

The Pain Free Lifestyle program is set up to be low impact and easy on the body. This way you can perform the exercises long term without the fear that you are doing more damage to your body.

Exercising smarter, rather than harder, by doing low impact exercising and eating a healthy diet rich in fresh fruit and vegetables along with taking a daily multi-vitamin is the Pain Free Way.



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