8 signs you’re over-exercising

You exercise to improve your health. But if you take your exercise routine too far, it could have the opposite effect…

Especially if you’re turning to extreme forms of exercise like Bootcamp and CrossFit to get in shape.

In fact, a new study published in the journal Frontiers in Physiology suggests that these kinds of workouts harm your health.

Surprising? Not really. CrossFit is a strengthening and conditioning program that uses high-intensity interval training by combining aerobic exercise with weight-bearing exercise and Olympic weightlifting. Crossfit workouts usually include several short and intense circuits that leave you exhausted, sweaty and trembling by the end.

Most people who do CrossFit, workout three days in a row and then take one day off to let their body recover. But this might still be overkill…

Researchers from the Catholic University of Brasilia found that after two consecutive CrossFit workouts, study participants had lower levels of anti-inflammatory cytokines. These helpful little proteins are produced by your white blood cells and dampen inflammation in your body — and by now we all know the damage that chronic inflammation can do to a body. So, needless to say, cytokines are something you want plenty of.

In the end, researchers concluded that too much CrossFit suppresses your immune system and encourages inflammation.  And these unfortunate consequences probably apply to other forms of extreme exercise too…

Which puts you in a conundrum. Because you don’t won’t to exercise too little. Or be afraid to push yourself when you exercise (it’s good to break a sweat on a regular basis). So how do you strike the right balance in your exercise routine?

First, you need to look out for physical signs your exercising too much or too hard like:

  • Decreased workout endurance
  • Constant fatigue
  • An elevated resting heart rate
  • Excessive weight loss
  • Insomnia
  • A weak appetite
  • Frequent colds and flus
  • Mood changes

Next, you need to adopt the “Goldilocks” approach to exercise: not too much, not too little… but just the right amount.

Truthfully, most of us probably get too little exercise rather than too much. But when you’re just getting into a fitness routine like CrossFit after being a card-carrying couch potato, it’s easy to overcompensate by going every day. Don’t do it.

Instead, aim for the exercise “sweet spot”—just the right amount of exercise to boost your health and longevity without going overboard…

In a study conducted by researchers from the National Cancer Institute and Harvard University, they found that this exercise sweet spot (when it comes to your health and longevity anyway) is 450 minutes of moderate exercise per week — or about an hour a day. This moderate exercise mostly came from walking an hour every day, which reduced participants’ risk of a premature death by 39 percent.

But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do any intense exercise. An Australian study found that if you devote 30 percent of your weekly exercise time to intense workouts, you can reduce your risk of premature death by another nine percent.

So if you’re shooting for that 450 minutes of exercise per week sweet spot, that means 135 of those minutes (about two and a half hours) should be vigorous exercise. And if you spread that across 7 days, you should be able to avoid negatively impacting those all-important cytokines.

Editor’s note: New exercise trends pop up faster than you can do your gym laundry. But don’t get caught up in the madness. Dr. Michael Cutler reveals how you can attain your best health ever — without extreme diets, dangerous pills or brutal workouts in his new guide, The Part-Time Health Nut. Get your copy today!

  1. A. Tibana et al. “Two Consecutive Days of Crossfit Training Affects Pro and Anti-inflammatory Cytokines and Osteoprotegerin without Impairments in Muscle Power.” Frontiers in Physiology (2016).
  2. “10 Signs You’re Exercising Too Much.” U.S. News & World Report. http://health.usnews.com. Retrieved September 1, 2016.
  3. “The Right Dose of Exercise for a Longer Life.” The New York Times Blog. http://well.blogs.nytimes.com. Retrieved September 1, 2016.


Jenny Smiechowski

By Jenny Smiechowski

Jenny Smiechowski is a Chicago-based freelance writer who specializes in health, nutrition and the environment. Her work has appeared in online and print publications like Chicagoland Gardening magazine, Organic Lifestyle Magazine, BetterLife Magazine, TheFix.com, Hybridcars.com and Seedstock.com.