Nothing compares to exercise in our quest to discover the fountain of youth but we must “use” with caution. We have often referred to exercise as the “wonder-drug” and that is no exaggeration but like all other medications too much of it may be harmful to our health. Always remember that MODERATION is key; just as too little may be of no benefit, too much may send you to your grave earlier.
Why am I beating drums of caution about exercising? My goal is to make you healthier and not worsen your current state. You are aware that there is a particular dose of medication that is right for you; when you take less than that dose your condition may not improve and when you overdose, you suffer serious consequences that may even include death. Exercise acts in a similar fashion. Avoiding exercise is harmful to our bodies but the benefits accrue as we start to exercise till a point is reached when we maximize our benefits. Beyond this golden point, additional (that is more intense, increasing duration or increasing frequency) exercise is harmful.
The areas that can lead to too much exercise are; Intensity, Frequency, Duration and doing too much too soon. It is no secret that moderate intensity exercise is often best for the majority of us. Very intense exercise has been found to decrease our immunity leading to increase in conditions such as the common cold. It may also increase injuries such as sprains of large joints that may force us to take a long break from exercise. As a guide; we should be able to carry on a conversation when we exercise at moderate intensity, at high intensity we struggle to even put together a sentence and at very low intensity we can sing. If you have been singing for years while you exercise this may be your cue to go a notch higher. Studies have shown that when the heart is in distress such as may occur in lengthy intense exercise sessions an enzyme called troponin may be released. This signifies damage to heart muscle. Over a long period, this damage may cause scar tissue to form in the heart muscle and may lead to abnormal heart beats. This means too much exercise may be harmful not only to your immune system, joints and muscle but your treasured heart may also suffer. Mild left jaw pain lasting for a very short period especially during intense activity may be a sign of a heart under distress, please do not ignore.
Some of us also tend to exercise the same muscle groups too frequently. A common target is the abdominal muscle as we strive to acquire the elusive six-pack. Muscles need time (about 48 hours) to recover from minor injuries we sustain while exercising. If we do not allow enough time for healing we never get the desired result. Remember this does not apply to those who under-exercise the muscle group.
Yes exercise can give you a “high” that tends to drive exercise addicts to keep going on and on. Remember that after a point the law of diminishing returns sets in and setting an all-day camp in a gym to exercise will be of no use. For the majority of us a maximum of an hour of exercising is ideal especially when we spend the time appropriately. Remember some of us may spend hours on end in our exercise attire just socializing rather than actively exercising. Socializing does have its benefits too but that is a discussion for another time.
A number of people who engage in strength training will continue lifting to fatigue. The danger here is continuing to repeat a movement with weights till fatigue means your last few repetitions may be done with poor form or posture. Do not try this without professional supervision. Keep to the number of repetitions that you can do with the right posture and your back and other body parts will forever be grateful to you.
Do you remember ever going to the hospital and your doctor started you on medication and over the months increased the doses? Exercise follows a similar pattern; start slowly and add on as you get fitter. Doing too much too soon can cause harm and even death.
The fact that you may overdose with exercise does not mean you have an extra arsenal in your “Exercise Excuse Chest”, remember that too little or nothing at all is suicidal. “The lesson is that the benefits of exercise don’t require extreme efforts. A Goldilocks approach is probably best: too little is bad for the heart, but too much could be also. Moderate activity – anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour a day, several days a week – is just right.”
AS ALWAYS LAUGH OFTEN, WALK AND PRAY EVERYDAY AND REMEMBER IT’S A PRICELESS GIFT TO KNOW YOUR NUMBERS (blood sugar, blood pressure, blood cholesterol, BMI)
Dr. Kojo Cobba Essel
Moms’ Health Club
*Dr Essel is a medical doctor and is ISSA certified in exercise therapy and fitness nutrition.
Thought for the week – “If you crave for and chew ice in whatever form, do not ignore it. Talk to your doctor, you may have iron deficiency anaemia.”
• TIME – 100 New Health Discoveries –“When Exercise Does More harm Than Good”