When it comes to healthy habits, too much of a good thing can backfire, especially when it comes to exercise and exercise addiction. Yes, it’s a thing. While most people suffer from lack of exercise, once you get going, it can be addictive and some people do end up exercising too much — either by exercising too intensely, and/or too frequently. And if you subscribed to Buns of Steel in the 80’s or you adopted the “you can rest when you’re dead” attitude of the 90’s, it could be hard to switch lanes today. What worked for you in your twenties most likely is doing the opposite once you hit your late thirties.
It’s true that exercising every day is still important to not only stay trim but also to keep everything toned on the inside. “You lose it if you don’t use it” has never been truer. Exercise increases your health and state of well-being but when it’s taken to extremes, in in my case, exercise addiction, it’s often hard to tell when you’ve crossed over the unhealthy line. You could be thinking that you’re doing a good thing but you could end up doing damage to your body that may or may not be able to be undone. Prologued states of over exercising can rob your body of muscle, hormones, and your vitality.
Here’s a few reasons why you may not know if you’ve crossed over the unhealthy exercise line:
Exercising for the state of high that comes from the surge of adrenaline and endorphins of intense physical activity. I admit it, I’m guilty of this. One one of the weird ones who actually loves exercise. Not only do I love it, not exercising can have a negative impact on my day. Exercise addicts control their bodies, alter their moods, and define themselves through their over involvement in physical activity, to the point where instead of choosing to participate in their activity, they have become “addicted” to it. Guilty! Because exercise is seen to be a healthy activity, and over exercisers “appear” to be healthy, the damaging effects are often hidden within our body. The negative results might not surface for years after damage has been done. I share more of my destructive exercise addiction here.
Women often have a distorted view of their bodies. It’s easy to get trapped in never ending pursuit to get our body to look perfect through physical attack, instead of listening to your body and doing what it needs to be well.
Most of us understand that stress is unhealthy, even if we don’t really know what to do about reducing it from our lives. When we think of stress, it’s typically psychological stress coming at us from external sources. Relationships, motherhood, work. We don’t think of exercise as stress. Though physical stress can do just as much damage to the body.
Exercise is Stress to the Body
The body reacts to stress of any kind in the same way— flooding the system with endorphins, cortisol, and adrenaline to combat the physical demand. Combined with the demands of work and family, this drains women of testosterone and ultimately puts strain on the adrenals which can lead to anxiety, insomnia, loss of libido, infertility, chronic fatigue and adrenal fatigue. This chain reaction can lead to a compromised immune system which opens you up for a host of more serious illnesses.
When you work out intensely, you put your body in a state of inflammation. Doing this for extended periods of time, or years, without equal if not more periods of rest and recovery creates a chronic state of inflammation. You actually become bloated and puffy the very thing you are fighting against, which could cause you to workout harder to get rid of it. And before you know it you’re trapped in an inflammation cycle. Not only can this lead to a host of issues like heart attacks, strokes, insulin resistance, it leads to a weakened immune system which opens us up to cancer, viruses, and infections. For more signs of exercise addiction check out this handy dandy article.
While the payoff of exercising is immediate, a euphoric state of well-being, tight muscles, fitting into skinny jeans, often you are unaware that years of over exercising depletes your reserves of testosterone, cortisol, and serotonin which can age you prematurely—leaving you depressed, fatigued, and not feeling like yourself. This often can get in the way with relationships, career, and overall enjoyment of life.
We exercise to stay young and healthy though as we age over exercising starts reversing it’s benefits. As you hit you early to mid 30’s your hormones gradually start decreasing without any overt signs.
Pushing your body with the same attack that you did in your 20’s becomes a double whammy with damages that often do not show up for 10-15 years later.
Making Healthy Exercise Changes
With a full understanding of how our bodies work as we age and healthy exercise adjustments we can prevent the issues that often hit women as they hit their 40, 50, and 60s and exercise can become a healthy way of living.
For me this meant stopping all forms of exercise for 6 months. For an exercise addict this can feel like an eternity. There was never a day, that I did not have a thought that I “should” be exercising. After those 6 months of allowing my adrenals and my body to heal, it meant trading in my 2 hour strength training days, and my 2 hour spinning classes for flow yoga four times a week. Gone is the pervasive exhaustion and the constant physical inflammation that I took as normal. This was my start back to the healthy vibrant body I have today and having the energy to enjoy my life.
Trust me if you make this adjustment now, you won’t have to claw your way out of a hormonal hole like I did. I wish I knew this earlier. Just think of all that time I would have saved busting my booty at the gym. On the plus side, I’m told from all my years of aerobics and weight lifting there’s a good chance I won’t have to worry about osteoporosis for several years.