How to Know if You're Exercising Too Much

Three Parts:Tracking Your Exercise and Learning Signs of OverworkIncorporating the Appropriate Amount of Exercise per WeekTaking a Break from Exercise

There are many benefits to regular physical activity. Both cardio and strength training exercises can help improve your overall health. You can maintain your weight or even lose weight, improve your blood pressure, decrease your risk of diabetes, heart disease or stroke and even improve your mood.[1] However, if you're exercising too much or too hard, there can be negative side effects to your exercise routine. You may experience insomnia, increased heart rate and may even damage your heart in the long run.[2] Over exercising can also lead to a breakdown of muscles. This is in part due to the result of the release of cortisol, a stress hormone.[3] The immune system can also become compromised, increasing your chances of getting sick. Make sure you pay attention to your body so you can take a rest if you're exercising too much.

Part 1
Tracking Your Exercise and Learning Signs of Overwork

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    Monitor your energy levels and recovery time. One symptom you'll notice immediately is a change in your energy levels and recovery time. If you are over exercising you'll see a decrease in energy and an increase in the amount of time you need to recover from certain exercises.[4]
    • If you're noticing an overall lack of energy or inability to complete your normal workouts, this is a sign you need a rest.
    • Also, if you notice continued muscle soreness (past the 72 hour mark), this is a signal your muscles have not recovered or repaired themselves. You'll need to continue with rest until the soreness resolves completely.[5]
    • If you have increased injuries or an injury that won't heal, take a rest and definitely go see a doctor to diagnose the issue.
    • If you notice muscle pain while you are exercising, you may not have gotten enough rest in between exercise days.
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    Track your sleeping patterns. One obvious sign of exercising too much is a disrupted sleep pattern. This is one of the first signs you may notice. Either sleeping too much or experiencing insomnia is a sign that you might be pushing yourself too much.[6]
    • First, start by figuring out how much sleep you typically get on a "good night." Do you sleep eight hours or a little more or less? This will be your norm and the basis for you to judge whether or not your sleep habits have changed.
    • Many people start to notice they're having difficulty sleeping or they're experiencing some insomnia.[7] Insomnia is defined as having difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep.[8]
    • Studies have shown that too much exercise may increase stress hormones in your body preventing you from falling or staying asleep.[9]
    • On the other hand, you may notice that you experience increased fatigue and increased desire to sleep longer or more often during the day. If you're staying in bed for nine, 10 or more hours, you may be exercising too much.
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    Monitor your mood and motivation. You may not realize how your mood, mental state or motivation is affected by over exercising. Any changes to your typical personality may also be a sign you've put in too much time at the gym.[10]
    • Changes in mood or feeling depressed are associated with overtraining. If you notice you've been snappy more often, feeling "blue" or have just been more irritable, take a look at how much you've been exercising.[11]
    • Another thing to track along with mood is your feelings about working out. Are you losing your motivation or usual excitement for your regular workouts? A sudden drop in motivation or excitement about your workout is a sign to give it a rest.[12]
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    Check your heart rate. If you're an exercise aficionado, you may take joy in measuring your heart rate during exercise, during your daily activities and during rest. Seeing an increase in resting heart rate is a sure sign you're overdoing it.[13]
    • Resting heart rate is when you're being calm, still and lying down. It's when your body needs the least amount of blood to be pumped through your body because you're at rest. Typically it's anywhere from 60-100 beats per minute. Athletes may have resting heart rates even lower at 40 beats per minute.[14]
    • If you have a heart rate monitor, or check your pulse regularly, try to monitor your resting heart rate more closely. If your normal rate is around 45 beats per minute and then jumps to 60 beats per minute, this is a sign you're definitely overdoing it.[15] This indicates excessive stress on the body.
    • If you don't currently measure your resting heart rate, start doing so. It's best to measure first thing in the morning while you're still laying down or after you've been in a bed a bit at night. Track this in your exercise journal so you can see any trends or changes.
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    Monitor your monthly period if you are a menstruating woman. Over exercising can lead to a lack of monthly periods, as it can interfere with hormone production. This is called Exercise Induced Amenorrhea.[16] You may stop having your period altogether or it may become irregular, though perhaps relating to how intensely you are exercising at the time.[17] The interference with your hormones can have a negative affect on your bone mass, putting you at higher risk for sprains, breaks, and osteoporosis.[18] See your doctor immediately if this happens.
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    Track your progress. Many avid exercisers and athletes will track their progress and performance. Whether it's strength or endurance, you should know what your goals are and how you typically perform day to day.
    • Pay attention to your overall performance. If your typical workouts feel harder to complete or you're running out of energy before the end of your workout, this could signal your body can't keep up this level of exercise.
    • Also, if you're trying to increase muscle mass, strength or endurance and your progress has completed halted (or regressed) this is a signal you're pushing yourself too much.[19] Be careful not to continue to overdo it. You may think this progress stall is a signal to work harder, but that can be dangerous.
    • Weight is another way to check in with your body. If you've been trying to lose weight but your weight has plateaued for several weeks, it may be due to too much exercise and not enough fuel.[20]
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    Monitor the reasons you're exercising. Although exercise is definitely a healthy thing to do, many people exercise for the wrong reasons. If exercise has become compulsive, or to help reach an extremely low body weight, you may need to give up working out and work on positive body image instead.
    • Some people may exercise excessively and over train because they are using intense and frequent quantities of exercise as a method of "purging" after eating large meals or high calorie foods. Exercise bulimia is a mental health problem and if you believe (or others have mentioned to you) that you have exercise bulimia see a therapist and your doctor immediately.[21]
    • Many other people over train in the hopes of reaching the "perfect body" or "perfect weight." If you feel like you're using exercise to change your body and you're dissatisfied with yourself, you may want to consider seeking help to improve your body image.
    • If your friends or loved ones have expressed concern on the amount and intensity of physical activity you're doing take a step back to look at your routine. Keep an objective view and use your support group to decide whether or not you should seek mental health help and discontinue with activity.

Part 2
Incorporating the Appropriate Amount of Exercise per Week

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    Talk to your doctor. If you think you've been overtraining or over exercising, its time for a break and a visit to the doctor. This is especially true if you're experiencing any symptoms of overtraining or are eager to restart an exercise routine.
    • If you think you may be overdoing it or want to know what is safe and appropriate for your health and fitness level, think about talking to your doctor. She will be able to guide you on what's best.
    • Always see a doctor immediately if you start to notice any symptoms of overtraining. They usually worsen as you continue to push yourself which can be dangerous.
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    Aim for 150 minutes of cardio a week. It's great to be active regularly and get in a lot of physical activity — especially cardiovascular exercises (like jogging, swimming or using the elliptical machine). However, try to stick to the typical recommended amounts to avoid exercising too much.
    • Most health professionals recommended completing at least 150 minutes of cardio exercises each week. That's equivalent to five 30 minute sessions per week.[22]
    • If you want to do more exercise, it's safe to even participate in up to 300 minutes per week or about 60 minutes five to six days a week.[23]
    • There is no additional benefit of including more cardio exercise exceeding 300 minutes or an hour daily. Although you may be able to sustain this for a while, it could lead to over exercising.
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    Do one to two days of strength training. In addition to cardiovascular exercises, it's also recommended to do a few days of strength training as well. Like cardio, you do not need to do large amounts to get results.
    • Most health professionals only recommend doing strength training about one to two days a week. It's important to work every major muscle group and spend at least 20 minutes per session.[24]
    • If you're looking to significantly increase muscle mass, muscle strength or muscle definition, you'll most likely want to do more strength training than two 20 minute sessions each week. You can spend more time doing activities, but discontinue once you feel your muscles begin to fatigue.
    • However, you can see decent results without spending two hours in the weight room. Most people are able to see changes in muscle strength and definition with two or three 20 or 30 minute weight sessions.[25]
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    Do a warm up before and after your workout. Light exercise before and after your workout may help you recover faster. The goal is to perform at least five to 10 minutes of light cardio exercise before and after your workout, such as walking. This helps increase heat and circulation to the body and helps prevent injury.
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    Increase your baseline or lifestyle activity. If you want to be more active and be more fit, it's not always wise to just continue to add minutes to your cardio or strength routine. Mix it up by incorporating more lifestyle activity to maintain or improve your fitness levels.
    • Lifestyle activity doesn't include your exercises at the gym or your morning runs. Lifestyle activity are the exercises you do as part of your daily routine. It could be sweeping the floor, taking the stairs to your office or walking outside to get the newspaper.[26]
    • Lifestyle activities do not burn many calories by themselves. However, they can make a big difference by the end of an entire day.
    • Studies have even shown that those who participate in a lot of lifestyle activity see similar health benefits compared to those who only do structured exercise (like going for a 45 minute run).[27]
    • If you want to keep your body active, burn calories, support your metabolism and see some health benefits without over exercising, consider increasing your lifestyle activity. Try: parking farther away, taking the stairs more often, walking or biking to work, standing instead of sitting while you watch TV or taking a 10 minute walk break on your lunch.

Part 3
Taking a Break from Exercise

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    Keep an exercise journal. A great thing to have handy (for a whole host of reasons) is an exercise journal. This allows you to have a detailed log of the types, amounts and frequency of exercises you've done over the last several weeks. Use this to see if you've pushed yourself too much and when you need to take a break from exercise.
    • Keep a paper dairy or use an online app to track all of your exercise. Make sure to track what days you're exercising, what types of exercises you're performing, how long you're doing them and at what intensity.
    • Also track any symptoms as well. For example, you did your normal weight lifting routine, but had difficulty finishing the last set of reps. Or you did your normal five mile jog, but couldn't finish the last mile.
    • If you're already noticing some signs and symptoms of overtraining, try to backtrack and log exercises you've done in the last several weeks. Try to fill in as many days as you can so you can get an accurate look of what you've been doing.
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    Include more restorative forms of exercise. If you think it's time for a break from your normal exercise routine, don't think you have to stop being active completely. Instead, indulge in low intensity and restorative exercises.
    • Low intensity and restorative exercises allow your body to be active, but are easy on your muscles, joints, heart and mind. Many exercises fall into this category and can help keep you active without further damaging your body.
    • Restorative yoga is a great practice to start. You may even want to include this once a week to make sure you don't over train in the future. This type of yoga only includes five to six poses and typically use props to help your body relax. It's only light twisting. There aren't any muscle straining or strengthening exercises.[28]
    • You may also want to consider doing a few different types of low intensity exercises. You might want to go for a 20 minute walk, do some light swimming or do a slow pace on the elliptical.
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    Take a mandatory one or two days of rest. You may not realize it, but taking some rest days each week is equally important to your overall health and fitness ability. In addition, you may see little to no progress without adequate rest days.[29]
    • Rest days are important for a whole variety of reasons. First, it's during rest that your muscles recover. Therefore, it's actually during rest that they grow in strength and size.[30]
    • Adequate rest is also important mentally. Give your mind a break from intense exercise so you can relax and enjoy your time away from the gym.
    • Take at least one day of rest, maybe two each week. You can skip exercise all together or take some time for more restorative exercises.
    • It is recommended that you take at least 48 hours rest between workouts for the same body part. However, this is not fixed for everybody. If you find yourself overtraining, you may require up to 72 hours of rest before you exercise the same body part. Pay attention to recovery, mood and pain to assess how long your rest should be.


  • If you feel like you've been over exercising stop and rest. You may need to take just one or two days off or even a whole week.
  • If you are sore, feel like you have injured yourself or just can't recover normally, see a doctor immediately.
  • Don't forgo rest. It's important to your overall health and fitness ability. Rest can actually help you progress, get fast or build more muscle mass.

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Categories: Sports and Fitness