Exercise: it's got to be good for you … and the more the better, right? Wrong. While a moderate amount of exercise appropriate to your age and state of health is beneficial, too much or the wrong kind of physical exertion may do you more harm than good. Here are four potential problems with exercise.
"No pain, no gain" was a popular exercise slogan in the 80s … but by now it's as old fashioned as the mullet or the big-shouldered power suit. Far from being the sign of a successful workout, intense pain is your body's way of signaling that something is wrong. Never begin an exercise program without first clearing it with your physician, especially when you are pregnant, out of shape, or already suffer from chronic pain. If you experience moderate to extreme pain during a session (as opposed to mild burn or discomfort, which is normal), for your health's sake, stop what you are doing. Gently cool down, if you are able, and then apply an ice pack, wrapped in a towel to guard against ice burn, to the affected area. Take it easy with your exercise routine for a few days, although mild stretching is helpful to ward off stiffness. Should the pain persist, get medical advice.
2. Exercise-related injury
Muscle injury, whether mild (shin splints, for example) or possibly life-threatening such as compartment syndrome, can occur when you start exercise without proper preparation. Especially if you have been sedentary for some time, it's recommended to work out as part of a supervised group or under the care of an experienced trainer. Wear appropriate gear; footwear with adequate support is especially important. Make sure that you exercise on a suitable mat or flooring surface. Your balcony may be a fantastic spot for meditation, but for jumping and bouncing … not so much.
3. Heart problems
Working out can also cause serious heart problems. Excessive exercise may lead to fibrosis (scarring of the heart tissue) or ventricular arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat due to weakened heart muscles). To avoid these dangerous conditions, consult with a qualified health professional as to what level of exercise is appropriate and healthy for you. Don't skip warm-ups and cool-downs before and after sessions. Take a day off from your workout routine occasionally.
4. Exercise bulimia
A new type of eating disorder has recently been recognized. Exercise bulimia involves binge eating followed by a form of purging. Rather than attempting to counterattack the effects of their binge with laxatives or self-induced vomiting, exercise bulimics use strenuous, lengthy workouts to "get rid of" the calories they have consumed. Although their physique may seem to conform to societal ideals of fitness, in reality those who suffer from this condition tend to experience a host of negative effects, ranging from dehydration to stress fractures and joint disorders such as arthritis. This is not to mention the emotional and financial consequences of neglecting family, studies, or job that may be involved. If you think that you or someone you know may be exercising compulsively, look for help. Knowledgeable health professionals, support groups, 12-step programs, and residential rehab centers offer solutions to the syndrome of exercise bulimia.
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