Is Too Much Exercise Bad for You

By on March 4, 2013

too much exercise badIt’s the age old question, particularly when you’re trying to comfort yourself for having skipped your workout: is too much exercise bad for you?

Several internet rumors and urban legends abound to confirm the truth of this statement. And while it may not be true that spiders can lay eggs in your cheek, this is one urban legend that has a good deal of truth to it.

Is too much exercise bad? Let’s look at an overall perspective:

Scientific Discoveries

Over the years, scientists began putting together different parts of the same puzzle. They began to analyze the effects of long term stress on the body, both stress from emotional sources and stress from physical sources.

They also started studying runners and their health. The surprising results in these studies including ones published in the Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise and Brain, Behavior, and Immunity revealed that long term and intensive runners all had decreased immune systems.

The European Heart Journal published a study in which the researchers were surprised to discover that chronic marathon runners had more coronary plaque as compared to sedentary people.

Runners who run for more than 90 minutes a day or 60 miles in a week have been further studied, and most of them demonstrated severely compromised immune systems.

This is part of the reason that many runners vomit after long distance runs after extended running sessions and become susceptible to various viruses, colds, and sicknesses when they complete a marathon, half marathon, Iron Man, or other similar competition.

What Causes The Immune Suppression

This now comes as a surprise to most runners. After all, the majority of them run precisely because they want to improve their overall health. And running does have many benefits.It improves the cardiovascular system and the heart, but when it goes on for too long, it can cause problems.

The current reasons that researchers believe that extended exercise compromises the immune system is twofold:

  • The first reason that extended high impact exercise suppresses the immune system is because it releases adrenaline into the body. The adrenaline can create a condition of chronic stress, which then triggers the release of corticosteroids. The purpose of corticosteroids is to reduce stress, but an unfortunate side effect is that it triggers weight gain. The body thinks that it is going to go through a long term traumatic event, and so it starts doing the one thing it knows how to do best: store fat.


  • The second reason that extended high impact exercise causes problems with the body is because to reach that level of exercise requires that you are skimping on something else. Marathon runners and endurance athletes must dedicate significant periods of time to their exercise regimen.Most of them must spend three to four hours of time running. That is time that is typically taken from other beneficial activities. There is only so much time in the day, and if you’re spending a sixth of the day running and only running, then you are probably not doing functional exercises or getting enough sleep.

The Solution

Now none of this is to say that you cannot work out. In fact, you need to. Some exercise provides tremendous benefits. The key is to remember that there is a difference between functional exercises and work out exercises.

Work out exercises are the sort of things that you only do when you are working out and that you are rarely going to use outside of your exercise regimen. Functional exercises are workout exercises that exercise whole sets of muscle groups in a manner that you might use them in real life.

The other distinction between functional and work out exercises is that functional exercises can work into your routines. Researchers did not find the same correlations between people who were active throughout the course of the day and immune suppression as they did between runners.

Walking and being active are distinct from high impact aerobic activities. They do not generally place the same stress on your body unless you are in a high impact job.

Speaking generally, you should avoid working out for more than an hour. The best solution is to work out in small chunks throughout the day. Working out longer than an hour at a vigorous intensity level starts to increase the stress levels throughout the body.

Remember that your goal is to become healthy and fit, not just losing weight. Understanding the components of your healthy lifestyle and incorporating appropriate functional exercises and nourishing foods are vital.






Jason S. Kajiura, J. Dunan MacDougall, Peter B. Ernst, and Edward V. Younglai, “Immune Response to Changes in Training Intensity and Volume in Runners,” Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, Volume 27 Issue 8, pages 1111-1117 (1995).

E.A. Murphy, J.M. Davis, M.D. Carmichael, J.D. Gangemi, A. Ghaffer, and E.P. Mayer, “Exercise Stress Increases Susceptibility to Influenza Infection,” Brain Behavior, and Immunity, Volume 22, Issue 8, pages 1152 – 1155 (2008).

Josh Cohen, “Is Too Much Exercise Bad for You,” Pain Free Lifestyle, (2013).

About Michael Tremba

Dr. Michael Tremba, once severely overweight himself, has studied to distinguish the truth about weight loss, and the shocking mis-information that's taught to us by many "trusted" groups. Through the techniques that have helped him regain his health, he shares uncommon tools to help anyone else desiring to lose weight to live the life they're meant to. He enjoys reading, exercising, travelling, and spending time with his wife, Shari in Mobile, Alabama Find me on Twitter, Google+ and let's connect on LinkedIn.
%d bloggers like this: