Can exercise give you pain? How much of exercise is enough? Can over-exercise cause health problems? These questions are confusing. The best answer for you depends upon varied factors such as age, sex, weight, diet and level of daily activity. It also depends upon your goals. Are you exercising for weight loss? Or is it that you wish to lower the risk of chronic diseases? It could also be for shaping your body. Therefore one ‘magic’ number may not work for everybody. Remember exercises are not meant to become ill or get injured.
Most of all the amount of exercise you need depends upon what activities you engage in. An individual needs certain number of calories or energy to function every day. From basic actions of daily chores like dressing, driving or eating; your body needs energy to keep your heart, lungs and other organs functioning. You may also add in a few other activities like playing a sport, going for a walk or hiking. This too requires more energy and calories. Thus the amount of your energy needs or calories also depends on whether you are sedentary or active.
According to the Department of Health and Human Services, USA, for most healthy adults, at least two hours and 30 minutes a week of moderate aerobic activity like brisk walking or swimming or one hour and 15 minutes a week of vigorous aerobic activity like running, at least twice a week is recommended. It comes to at least 30 minutes of exercises are necessary for at least twice a week.
In case you want to lose weight or shape up or fulfill any other fitness goals you need to increase the time or intensity of activities. If it is difficult for you to set aside time for exercise you can try to divide your exercise regimen in ten-minute slots over the day.
The worry about not getting enough exercise can easily push you into getting too much of it. Overtraining or too much exercise can put you at a risk of injuries and illnesses. To know if you are overexerting yourself, find out if your workouts or activities give you fatigue. If you feel you are working very hard or are feeling pain, you are surely over-exercising.
Signs of over-exercising
- Persistent aches and pains in muscles or joints
- Muscle cramps and soreness, joint pain, limited range of motion, feeling of tightness in the injured joint or feeling of numbness or tingling in some body parts
- Fatigue and tiredness
- Insomnia or lack of sleep
- Inability to complete workouts
- Loss in appetite
- Lack of energy and motivation
- High pulse rate in the morning
- Reduced performance
- Lowered immunity, susceptibility to cold, sore throat and other ailments
Over-training symptoms can occur because of many factors; one of them being not resting enough or doing the same workout for too long. More than boredom, over-training may result in possible injuries. There are certain norms that you must follow to save yourself from over-training. Proper warm-up prior to exercising is an important aspect. Experts suggest that warm-up can help prevent injuries.
To begin with: never try to run at the first go, start with walking instead and slowly pick up with running. Cardio or aerobic exercises every day would depend upon the intensity and the activity you are doing. Doing the same intense exercise every day may result in stress injuries. Schedule low intensity exercises too. For instance, instead of running or biking every day, you can walk or swim for a couple of days.
For lifting weights start with lifting smaller weights. Following lifting weights, your body needs rest; muscles need time to recover. It is advisable not to work the same muscle group two days in a row. Stretching helps tight muscles to relax. Tight muscles may cause other muscles to over compensate resulting in injury over time.
Listen to your body. If you feel tired after a workout, take rest or if you must, do a light yoga workout and get adequate sleep. Your body needs energy to recover after exercise. And to provide that include carbohydrates, protein and some amount of ‘good’ fat in the food that you eat.
The Right Amount of Exercise
Over-exercising, doing too much too soon can make you ill. So what is the right amount of exercise? It all depends upon the intensity of exercise—strenuous, moderate or mild the intensity of exercise—strenuous, moderate or mild. And the intensity with which you exercise depends upon your current health status. Remember, when you indulge in moderate exercise, you should feel a bite warm or sweaty and a bit out of breath, nothing more than that.
Certain activity levels have been recommended by experts. Adults can do a minimum of 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise or any physical activity at least five days a week. And the exercises can be spread throughout the day. The activity not necessarily has to be a gym workout; it could be walking with your dog, playing a sport or walking to work, etc.
Individuals who are at a risk of obesity or those who wish to manage their weight need about 45-60 minutes of exercise at least five times a week. For older people mobility all through the day is a must. Specific activities to improve strength, co-ordination and balance are important.
With health problems you need to talk to your doctor at first before getting into any exercise programme. Pregnant women should take proper care. Exercises during pregnancy can help in posture, strengthening abdominal and pelvic floor muscles. However, in situations of any sign of bleeding, nausea or headache, high blood pressure or women with a history of miscarriages; immediate medical advice must be sought.
A proper nutritious diet plays a major role in remaining healthy. Eat a light snack before you begin your workout; a fruit or two biscuits and maybe a glass of lime juice. Exercise makes you sweat and perspire. This is body’s way of cooling. In the bargain, the body loses a lot of fluid. On an average you lose about one litre of fluid for every hour of exercise. The intensity of exercise is directly related to fluid loss. Experts advice taking about 150-200ml of water every 15 minutes during exercise. For longer strenuous exercises, sports drinks may be better than water.
There are ways to measure the intensity of exercise or how hard you have been working out. These include the talk test and your target heart rate.
- Talk test—The talk test can help you judge for yourself how vigorous your activity has been. If you cannot speak a complete sentence without becoming breathless, your activity is intense. If you are able to converse with someone, your activity level is light to moderate.
- Target heart rate—Target heart rate is 70-80 per cent of your maximum heart rate (cf. Box 1). Maximum heart rate is the upper limit of what your cardiovascular system can handle during physical activity. Exercising within your target heart rate zone can help improve your fitness level.
Check your heart rate while you are exercising
- Stop exercising for a moment
- Check your pulse for 10 seconds
- Multiply this number by 6 to calculate your beats per minute
Your heart beats per minute need to be within your target heart rate zone. It is safer to begin your exercise with 70 per cent of your maximum heart rate or lower and slowly work up to a higher intensity level. To be on the safe side it is good to workout at a lower intensity level for a longer duration rather than short bursts of high intensity worksouts.
Target heart rate may give a less accurate estimate of your heart rate especially in older people. Chronic conditions such as cardiovascular disease or diabetes can alter the heart’s response to exercise. Medications such as beta blockers taken for high blood pressure and heart ailments can prevent exercise-induced increase in the heart rate. Also, people may find it difficult to stop during the workout to check on their pulse.