Are You Getting Too Much Exercise?
Thursday, June 14, 2007.
By Tracey Parker
Most people worry that they're not getting enough exercise. But with the weather warming up and swimsuits on our minds, some of us might actually be overdoing it.
Extended periods of intense training can backfire, cancelling out the benefits of physical activity. So, before you get caught up aiming for an impossible fitness goal by the first day of summer, consider the pitfalls of overdosing on exercise and get a reality check on what you really need to stay fit and healthy.
Can you get too much of a good thing?
Boosting your physical activity level is an important part of any weight loss programme. But you can get too much of this good thing, exert too much effort and therefore be more susceptible to injuries and illnesses. It's known as overtraining syndrome or exercise burnout.
Although athletes and bodybuilders are most at risk, it is becoming increasingly common among recreational exercisers. Too far, too fast, too soon and unrealistic goal setting are the offenders.
· Trying to lose 'winter weight' by taking five aerobics classes a week, rationalizing that you'll shed pounds more quickly or
· Pushing yourself beyond your limits
· Feeling guilty about missing a workout and increasing your next session.
Could you be overtraining?
Tactics like those listed above simply don't work. If you fail to give your body the time it needs to rest and recover from the physical stress you've placed upon it, you could be at risk for a host of problems associated with overtraining. Typical signs of overtraining are:
· Loss of appetite
· Extreme soreness or stiffness
· Drop in athletic performance or a plateau despite vigorous activity
· Increased susceptibility to colds and infection
· Problems sleeping, despite tiredness and lethargy
· Under-performing at work or school.
Listen to your body. If you're experiencing any of the above signs of overtraining, you may need to reduce the duration of your workout, the number of sessions per week, the weights that you lift or all of these factors. Sometimes complete rest is necessary. And having to cut down or even stop your fitness plan could put weight loss on hold, defeating the purpose of having started a fitness routine in the first place.
So instead of leaping blindly into exercise, look first at what you want to achieve and how you can accomplish it in a reasonable amount of time. Once you get it right, the gains can be immense.
What should you be trying to achieve?
The answer to this question is different for everyone because the amount of exercise that will produce maximum effect varies widely among individuals. Beginners should always start slowly. More advanced exercisers should consider their goals and current level of physical activity when determining how to build up their workouts. But the bottom line for everyone: remember that the purpose of exercise is to keep the body healthy, while you're having fun.
What should you be doing?
1. Cardiovascular Activity
· Cardio is key for helping you lose weight. The general rule is to get at least 20 minutes of cardio, 3 times a week. This can be any activity - swimming, biking, brisk walking, running or skipping - that elevates your heart rate into your training zone.
· Spice things up. It's not a great idea to do the same workout everyday. Variety will keep things interesting and safer, since the likelihood of overtraining one particular area is reduced. Also, doing the same routine without variation can be a major factor behind poor results. If you provide the same stimulus every time, you'll adapt to it. This is a common cause of fitness and weight plateaus.
· Give yourself a break. Intense aerobics on a daily basis is generally not advised. If you want to exercise every day, schedule in some low-intensity workouts. For example, if you usually run and cycle every day, try to take a couple of days to go for a walk or do a light swim. These recovery workouts will help you stay fresh and the cross training will help you avoid injuries.
2. Resistance training
· Lifting weights increases your muscle mass, which in turn, helps to raise your metabolism so you burn more calories. For every pound of muscle you add, you automatically burn an extra 35 to 50 calories per day. It also helps build bone density. But the key is not to overdo it - a simple total body workout twice a week will do. Keep in mind that lifting weights will not cause fat to turn to muscle. To reveal toned muscle, you will need to shed some fat through calorie-burning cardio exercise.
· Aim for a balance. When lifting weights, you should avoid working the same muscle group two days in a row (abdominals excluded).
· Get adequate rest. When you perform resistance training, your muscles actually break down and become smaller and weaker. With the proper rest, these individual muscle groups grow stronger by repairing themselves. Large muscle groups, such as the pectorals (chest) or quadriceps (thighs), will need 72 hours rest, and smaller muscle groups, such as the biceps (arms) and deltoids (shoulders), need 48 hours to recover and repair themselves.
· Stretching is important because it helps prevent injury, makes you relax, increases your co-ordination and it feels good. Stretch before and after any fitness activity.
· Recovery is as important as exercise. It's during your rest periods that all the good stuff happens. Your muscles grow and repair and adapt to your training, so you can work out for longer periods of time and at a higher intensity at your next workout.
With thanks to Tescodiets.
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