Some people are sedentary, while others are obsessive in their mission for a leaner physique and go overboard with exercise. The number of people addicted to extreme exercise has risen. These individuals define themselves by their strenuous exercise routines. Little do they know, they're putting their health at risk, especially if they're radically cutting back on their food intake and watching every calorie consumed. Females who over-exercise and deprive themselves of proper nutrition can experience loss of menstruation cycles and ovulation. This sets them up for risk of osteoporosis, hormone dysfunction and stress fractures.

A compulsive exerciser will stop at nothing to get their "high," including injuries, sickness, exhaustion, hormonal disruption or damage to their health.

Regular, consistent exercise is definitely a "winning formula" for health, vitality, longevity and fat loss. However, when exercise is taken to extreme measures compromising health, the immune system is challenged negatively.


Points to consider

How long are your workouts? After a 10- to 15-minute warm up, your actual workout should last no longer than one hour; 30 to 40 minutes is optimal. Spending two hours per workout is futile and detrimental to increasing strength, muscle size, hormonal balance and decreasing body fat.

Cortisol levels (the catabolic, growth-inhibiting, stress hormone) start rising after 30 to 40 minutes and anabolic levels (growth hormones) decrease. Extremely high levels of cortisol over time cause an increase in body fat, particularly at the abdominal skin fold.

Muscle growth and adaptations to muscle occur during recovery and rest, not during the actual workout. Cutting back to three or four training sessions per week will induce greater gains in strength and recovery.

Are you getting stronger with each workout? Are you losing body fat? Do you experience chronic aches and pains? How long are you recovering between workouts?

If you exercise intensely day after day after day, most likely you're over-training. Even though you may be training different muscles groups, you must take into consideration all systems of your body:

• Endocrine/Hormonal System

• Immune System

• Central Nervous System - The nervous system takes five to six times longer to recover from exercise than the muscular system.

Example: A 42-year-old, Type-A business person, has a family, travels for work, consumes a bagel and coffee for breakfast (major insulin spike), enjoys a martini or two before getting four to five hours of sleep, etc. These individual factors are extremely important to consider when designing an exercise program for this individual. The wrong exercise program or too much exercise will only create additional stress, hormone deficiencies, and possible adrenal exhaustion causing weakness, irritability, painful joints, fatigue and increased body fat.


Warning signs of excessive exercise:

• Biochemical depression.

• Body needs a longer warm up time.

• Chronic injuries that don't heal.

• Constant muscle soreness.

• Craving stimulants, caffeine and sugars.

• Decreased performance.

• Decreased appetite.

• Diminished libido.

• Disrupted and/or poor sleep quality.

• Elevated blood pressure.

• Elevated resting heart rate.

• Feeling brain-dead; fatigued; loss of motivation.

• Frequent colds and infections.

• Increased body fat from the excess cortisol and decreased lean muscle tissue (body fat levels that don't lower in response to physical exercise).

• Increased sensitivity to sunlight exposure.

• Muscle cramps, due to mineral deficiencies from over-exercising and stress.

• Relationships and social life are impacted taking a back seat to exercise.

• Salt cravings (symptom of adrenal fatigue).


Promote adequate recovery from your exercise program:

• Avoid excessive amounts of exercise, especially excessive aerobic exercise.

• Consume post-exercise nutrition within 10 to 20 minutes post workout.

• Determine your personal supplement program.

• Enjoy personal down time and relaxation every day (meditation, massage, deep breathing, prayer, reading, yoga, etc.).

• Fuel your body properly with healthy sources of protein, carbohydrates and healthy fats.

• Periodize your workouts often.

• Remain hydrated by drinking a minimum of half your bodyweight in water daily.

• Sleep (seven to nine restful hours each night).

As with everything, moderation and balance are key for health, vitality, longevity and fat loss.


Ahwatukee Foothills resident Paula Owens is a nutritionist, fitness expert and weight loss coach with more than 20 years of experience. Reach her at


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