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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

What is one thing that can help with depression, drug and alcohol dependence, school grades, and fitness? It's not a magic pill, its good ol' exercise! Australians are sometimes thought of as sports-mad, and young Australians are involved in many different types of sport and activity, which is good. But too much of anything can create problems, and exercise is no different.

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 the most you should do. Athletes training for a big event might do more.

Here are some signs you 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, or 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 expectations of what their body 'should' look like. Check out our topics Body image and Media pressure.
  • Over-exercise can lead to injuries and long-lasting infections, such as a sore throat that just does not get better for weeks.
  • Female athlete triad is the term used to describe three symptoms women can experience. They are:
    • An eating disorder. Often the pressure to lose weight is really strong for athletes.
    • Stopped periods. If a young woman exercises too much and loses weight at the same time, she can have a drop in oestrogen, the hormone that regulates the menstrual cycle, this can cause her periods to stop.
    • Bone problems. Osteoporosis is weakening of the bones; low oestrogen levels can cause this. As a result, the risk of stress fractures and broken bones is greater.

What can you do?

  • Over-exercise and eating disorders are often a result of people having a distorted self-image, or unrealistic expectations. If you eat a healthy diet including fresh fruit and vegies, exercise moderately, and get enough sleep, your body will look the way it is designed to. Check out the topic Body image for more information.
  • Try to develop a positive self-image. Remind yourself of your strengths everyday. Try to focus on the positive aspects of your life, and when you are exercising at a moderate level, think of the positive aspects and not about a need to do more.
  • 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?'

Talking to someone about your exercise is important. Check out our topic Counselling.

Resources

South Australia

  • Eating Disorders Association of SA Inc. (EDASA).
    web: http://www.edasa.org.au/
  • The Youth Health Service (TSS)
    - Central: 57 Hyde St, Adelaide
    - South: 50a Beach Rd, Christies Beach
    - North: 6 Gillingham Rd, Elizabeth
    - West: 51 Bower St, Woodville
  • The Inside Out Project
    Information, education and support for same sex attracted young men under 26 years.
    web: http://www.insideout.cyh.com

General

References

Loud K, Gordon C, Micheli L, and Field A. 'Correlates of Stress Fractures Among Preadolescent and Adolescent Girls'. Pediatrics, 2005; 115: 399-406:
http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/cgi/content/full/115/4/e399

Nichols J. et al. 'Prevalence of the Female Athlete Triad Syndrome Among High School Athletes'. Archives of Pediatric Adolescent Medicine. 2006; 160: 137-142:
http://archpedi.ama-assn.org/cgi/content/abstract/160/2/137

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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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