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Everyone exercises for different reasons. We all have our own motives and causes to engage in physical activity. For some it is health, for some appearance, for others it is a social event or simply a pleasure. Fitness is an important part of life for many people. It plays a huge role in how we feel and deal with emotions. 

But… Can you exercise too much? And how much is too much? Exercise can affect our mental health in both positive and negative ways. Physical activity actually puts a strain on our system, and can make our body feel stressed out. The reason for this is that training damages muscle fibres and uses up energy. These push our body out of homeostasis, and trigger response reactions, such as inflammation to compensate for the damage caused. The high utilisation of calories can put the body into ‘survival mode’ by making it think that calories are scarce and will try to save them up.

When a moderate amount of exercise is performed, it is more likely to only do us good, make us happier, improve blood flow and concentration levels. However, when one engages in too much physical activity, thereby putting an excessive amount of stress on the body, it can become harmful to the person’s mental and physical wellbeing. 

Injuries and stress fractures are caused by over-training and too much exercise. They arise from the body not being able to repair the damage from previous sessions and not having sufficient fuel (i.e. micro- and macronutrients) to recover. The muscle tendons and joints receive too much physical stress that the body is not able to cope with, which causes a high risk of injury. This then leads to the individual becoming annoyed due to their inability to perform certain movement, the injury pain and a lot of other mental stress placed onto the individual. 

There is no one number of hours to train that is suitable for everybody, but there are some points you should look out for to avoid overtraining:

  • Too much sleep or inability to fall asleep
  • Loss of appetite
  • Low energy, constant fatigue 
  • On-going muscle pains and soreness
  • High irritability or anxiety 
  • Frequent injuries (small and more serious)
  • Decrease in immune system function: coughs, sore throat, slower healing of bruises and scratches

It is important that you learn to listen to your body and know when it is time to give it a rest. Your body will appreciate the recovery time, and you will be able to come back to training much stronger after some rest. Make sure to take care of yourself and don’t over-exercise. Moderation is key.

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