Is there such a thing as too much exercise?

Physical exercise is good for us right? Of course! Movement is an integral part of any healthy lifestyle and we would benefit from including more incidental exercise in our daily routine if we don’t do so already. However, exercise, depending on its intensity, can sometimes put additional pressure on the body and in certain circumstances it can do more harm than good.

Exercise is supposed to energise us. If you feel energised and uplifted at the end of an exercise session then by all means keep going with it!

But many people over-exercise—either for too long or at too high an intensity. In the long-term, strenuous, high intensity exercise can not only exhaust our energy supply but can also impact our immune system, leaving us feeling totally run down. Couple this intense exercise with our often-frantic modern lifestyle and we can be left feeling tired but wired.

That’s because too much high intensity exercise not only creates more free radicals, it can trigger our stress response.

The adrenal glands are part of the endocrine system, and they sit just on top of the kidneys. They produce an array of hormones (chemical messengers), which include our stress hormones, adrenaline and cortisol, sex hormones such as progesterone, hormones that help control blood pressure, fluid balance and salt retention in the body, just to name a few. When it comes to our vitality, they pack a major punch in helping to create this.

Initially during a short-term stress response such as intense exercise, the adrenals release cortisol and adrenaline which acts to increase the heart rate, blood pressure and blood sugar levels, the nervous system response known as “fight or flight”.

When this short-term stress becomes long-term (from intensive exercise or even stress from chronic illness, work, relationships or other worries) the adrenal glands may no longer be able to cope and hormone levels can drop. The “fight or flight” response that historically protected us from predators, was not designed to protect us from this constant low-grade stress we are often experiencing in today’s world.

Symptoms such as low libido, sex hormone imbalances, compromised immunity, fatigue (even after 8 hours sleep), sugar cravings, weight plateau or weight gain and the inability to concentrate become evident. Sometimes people’s hair starts falling out.

More so than ever, it is essential to listen to your body. Choose your movement options wisely, not out of guilt or for calorie expenditure. A walk on the beach with a close friend or a stroll through a park taking notice of the sights, smells and sounds. You might find that embracing a breath-focused yoga practice is more energising for you at the moment. Adaptogenic and adrenal herbs can also be wonderfully supportive and provide much needed nourishment.  Herbs such as Withania, Rhodiola and Licorice can help to support the adrenal glands and modulate the immune system. Vitamin C, B vitamins and magnesium are also essential for optimal adrenal gland function and more are often required with periods of prolonged stress or to help combat the effects of intense exercise. If this resonates for you I would encourage you to speak to a health professional, as there may much you can do, or new ways to move for you to learn about so you can support yourself to feel better again.

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