One could joke no one has ever accused Americans of getting too much exercise. That would be glib, and that would be mean, but most of all, it would be incorrect. It’s easy, especially in the fitness-mad Pacific Northwest, for people to seek too much of a good thing when it comes to vigorous physical activity. And just like overdoing it with junk food or alcohol, you can overdo something that’s supposedly good for you.
Make sure exercise is a part of your life, but don’t let it take over your life, or you’ll be worse off than before you made your commitment to get active. Here are some of the dangers of too much exercise.
This is the obvious danger. Popular spectator sports like football and ice hockey teach Americans to “play through the pain” and persevere, even when that may be terribly uncomfortable. But the less romantic way of putting “play through the pain” is “aggravate an existing injury.” If a minor twinge of pain in your knee starts getting bigger, don’t be ashamed to lay off and let your body recuperate, or else the aches and pains will grow into something requiring medical intervention. Leave the heroic narratives to the professionals and take days off.
Minor physical setbacks are one thing—but losing your love for fitness is the kind of injury you may never recover from. Forcing yourself to do strenuous exercise day after day with no respites will eventually have you hitting a wall and losing your desire to perform. This can also lead to depression and feelings of imbalance that you can’t resolve. Burning out from overexercise could lead to significant weight gain, as you maintain a caloric intake more consistent with high activity or replace time spent working out with time spent munching on junk food. Again, when a workout begins to feel like something you’re forcing yourself to do rather than something you want to do, don’t be afraid to skip a day here and there before your mind starts deciding that working out is something you don’t want to do.
Many of us plan to make running a year-round pursuit, but the elements don’t always agree with those plans. Winters in the Pacific Northwest tend to be damp, but life east of the rain shield is a much drier affair—and that can pose a problem. If you have asthma, cold and dry winter air can trigger asthma attacks, so you may have to hit the treadmill or simply cut down on your running altogether. Not only will your knees thank you, your lungs may, too.
Losing Your “Workout-Life Balance”
When a commitment to fitness becomes all-consuming, it’s time to cut back. You shouldn’t be sacrificing social plans to exercise or thinking about your workouts around the clock. Elevating routine to a compulsion that interferes with friends, family, and the workplace is one of the greatest dangers of too much exercise, and a sign that it may be time to talk to a mental health professional.