Exercise is essential to maintaining physical health, but that doesn't necessarily mean more is better. Negative consequences of exercise can happen when someone exercises too quickly or intensely, focuses too much on one activity, or is unaware of the correct form. Over-exercising can cause injuries, exacerbate conditions, or even create life-threatening emergencies.
Whether someone's just starting out or a professional athlete, it's important to be alert for potential problems when working out.
Sore muscles are a common side effect of exercise. A light ache that goes away with rest in the few days after a hard workout is usually not anything to worry about. However, if muscle aches are extreme, take a long time to go away, or get worse with repeated exercise, that can be a sign of overuse. Limbs may also feel heavy and difficult to move. A person experiencing serious muscle soreness may need to adjust their routine to avoid injury.
Remember that rest is was as important a part of building muscle or increasing endurance as lifting weights or running.
Most exercise headaches are described as throbbing in both sides of the head during or following strenuous exercise. A headache alone is not usually dangerous and can potentially be helped with hydration or over-the-counter medication. If you also experience vomiting, neck rigidity, or dizziness during or after exercise, however, you should see a doctor. These can be symptoms of more serious problems.
Some people, particularly athletes, notice the taste of blood in their mouth while working out. This may come on suddenly and is not accompanied by actual bleeding. It may be alarming, but is usually not dangerous. It can be caused by mild fluid building in the lungs or irritation of mucous membranes during intense exercise.
Shortness of breath, wheezing, and chest tightness are expected when getting the heart rate up. But these can also be signs of exercise-induced asthma. This condition can occur in people who don't otherwise have asthma and can be mistaken for simply being out of shape. Overdoing it at the gym can make this issue worse. An inhaler and keeping workouts to a reasonable level can help manage asthma and make the fitness experience more comfortable.
While some people exercise to help regulate or manage weight, losing weight too quickly can be unhealthy. Over-exercising can disrupt appetite and cause constipation or diarrhea. Proper nutrition — and timing it appropriately around workouts — is essential to getting the best results from an exercise routine. Those who notice a dramatic change in weight, lose their appetite, or experience stomach problems may need to take it easier or even see a nutritionist for help.
Too much exercise can disrupt the menstrual cycle. People may notice lighter periods, less regular periods, or none at all. This can affect fertility and be symptomatic of more serious problems. If you notice a change in your menstrual cycle while exercising, you may need to consult a doctor and adjust your routine.
While moderate, healthy exercise can improve mood, over-exercising can have the opposite effect. A person who has exercised too hard for too long may have trouble sleeping. They may feel tired or irritated all the time, have low mood, and lose interest in things they once enjoyed. Rest can help with these symptoms, as can reduce workout intensity.
Rest is as important to fitness as exercise itself. Continuous exercise without proper rest periods can interfere with the gains you're trying to achieve, as well as damage the immune system. A person may become more vulnerable to colds and other illnesses if they work out too much. Sometimes this problem can be avoided with better nutrition and hydration. In other cases, they may need to cut back on exercise or stop for a short time.
The heart is a muscle and, like most muscles, exercise is generally good for it. Some people, however, experience higher blood pressure and heart rate even after their workout has ended. This can occur in people with underlying heart conditions and there is even some evidence that heart damage can occur from long periods of overtraining.
People with heart symptoms may need a doctor's help to adjust their exercise routines to safe levels.
A relatively rare but serious complication of exercise, rhabdomyolysis is a condition where the muscles break down, releasing too much of the protein myoglobin. This can damage the kidneys, cause serious illness, and even be fatal. Common symptoms include muscle swelling, weakness, soreness, and dark or reddish urine.
Those at higher risk of developing rhabdomyolysis include firefighters, service members, long-distance runners, and older people. Heat and prolonged exercise without rest are other risk factors. If you suspect you might have rhabdomyolysis, see a doctor.
This site offers information designed for educational purposes only. You should not rely on any information on this site as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, treatment, or as a substitute for, professional counseling care, advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have any concerns or questions about your health, you should always consult with a physician or other healthcare professional.