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Over-exercise

exercise; overexercise; over-exercise; compulsive; athlete; workout; gym; weights; body; image; diet; eating; periods; sport; fitness; fit; athletics; training; injury;

Contents

We are always being told about how good exercise is for us, and research shows that this is true, but did you know that you can exercise too much and this can affect your health?

How much is too much exercise?

Thirty minutes of moderate exercise three times a week is the minimum you should aim for. About sixty minutes a day of moderate or vigorous exercise is enough. Athletes training for a special event might do more.

Here are some signs that you might be overdoing it:

  • You are doing several sessions of exercise a day, everyday, when you are not training for a special event.
  • Exercise is your main focus in life - you put exercise above friends, work, school...
  • You get upset when you miss a workout, and worry about putting on weight, so you eat less.
  • You start to get health problems, such as injuries (bone fractures, sprains, soreness) or missed periods.

What can happen?

Over-exercise can lead to a number of health problems.

  • Over-exercise is linked with eating disorders, such as bulimia and anorexia. A person who over-exercises may have unrealistic ideas about what their body 'should' look like.
  • Over-exercise can lead to injuries that take ages to get better.
  • People who over-exercise can have illnesses that just do not clear up, such as a sore throat or bronchitis that does not get better for weeks.
  • Stopped periods. If a young woman exercises too much and loses weight at the same time, she can have a drop in the hormones that regulate the menstrual cycle. This can cause her periods to stop.
  • Bone problems. Osteoporosis is weakening of the bones; low hormone levels can cause this. As a result, the risk of stress fractures and broken bones is greater.

Everyone needs to have some fun in life, hang out with friends and relax. Even elite athletes training for high level competitions manage to fit in some relaxation time.

What can you do?

  • If you think that you may be exercising too much, or your friends or parents tell you that you are overdoing it, or you are feeling ill and not getting better, then it can be a good idea to talk with someone to find out how much exercise is right for you. You could talk to your doctor, school counsellor, exercise physiologist or a physiotherapist.
  • A fitness trainer may be helpful, but they can sometimes have very high expectations about what is right for the people they supervise.
  • Sometimes people see exercise as the only good thing they have going for them. Think about ways to focus on other aspects of your life, such as friends, study, or another hobby.
  • Your body needs rest to get the benefits of exercise. Think of days off as a positive part of your routine - muscles need time to recover, and rest time contributes to good mental health.
  • Exercise for you and your health. Sometimes pressure from coaches, parents or peers can cause young people to over-exercise. If you are not enjoying it, you need to ask yourself 'Am I doing this for me?'

It’s a great feeling when you are exercising and feeling that your body is working well. Make sure that you have time to develop your mind and spirit too.

A healthy body is not just about exercise and diet.

Resources

Australia

  • Kids Helpline - Tel: 1800 55 1800

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The information on this site should not be used as an alternative to professional care. If you have a particular problem, see a doctor, or ring the Youth Healthline on 1300 13 17 19 (local call cost from anywhere in South Australia).
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