PUBLISHED: 12:56 PM on Wednesday, May 25, 2005
Excessive exercise can be dangerous to your health
There's no doubt about it: exercise is part of being healthy. But for some people, it can become an addiction and lead to physical and emotional consequences. Sometimes called compulsive exercise, certain people use extreme, continuous activity at the gym to lose an abnormal amount of weight, calm a powerful fear of being fat, pacify guilt or purge their body of calories.

A host of physical consequences can result from over-exercising. "If the exercise causes overuse injuries or if the person's physical performance is declining rather than improving, it may suggest over-training," says James C. Rosen, Ph.D., professor of psychology at the University of Vermont.

The damage done by over exercise can have psychological implications as well. According to Rosen, "if the exercise significantly interferes with other responsibilities that the person agrees are important or if the person is losing enjoyment for physical activity and feels "burned out," there may be a problem.

Exercise can be very healthy, especially in moderation. Here are a few tips to prevent overuse injuries:

• Stop exercising immediately if you feel pain. It's usually a sign that something is wrong. If the pain or discomfort persists after you have stopped, seek medical attention.

• If you are starting a new exercise routine, start slowly and increase gradually.

• Alternate the type of exercise you do every day. You should get at least 30 minutes of cardiovascular exercise daily and there are a variety of workouts to accomplish this: running, stationary bikes, elliptical trainers, and swimming, for example.

• Replace your running shoes every 500 miles. The shoes can wear out and lose their ability to absorb shock, which will increase your risk of injury.

• Women should consume the recommended daily intake of calcium through their diets or vitamin supplements, which is normally 800 to 1200 milligrams. This can lower their risk for stress fractures. Women who are pregnant or post menopausal need more calcium and should consult their doctors.

Become familiar with the signs of over exercising, "recognize the symptoms which include physical injury, declining performance, feeling burned out, feeling stale in terms of exercise or loss of motivation," cautions Rosen. "Be honest with yourself about the impact of your exercise time relative to other responsibilities and people." If exercising is getting in the way of your daily activities or relationships, you may need to slow down.