Can You Exercise Too Much?

Excessive Exercise: 4 Side Effects of Exercising Too Much

If you think you're overdoing it, you probably are

Are you concerned if you exercise too much? What are the side effects of excessive exercise?

Here’s the thing:

Most of us agree that exercise is crucial for the body, brain, and heart health.

With more physical activity, we can prevent the onset of diseases, and improve cognitive abilities, and cardiovascular health.

Some studies have shown that moderate exercise in the long term, provides more benefits than intense workouts. 

But at what point do we cross the line? At what point do we exercise too much? And is it bad for us?


In this post, we’ll discuss the possible side effects of excessive exercise.

Finally, we’ll provide some useful tips if you exercise too much.

Let’s dive in.

What are the side effects of excessive exercise?

1. Cardiovascular health

study by researchers from the University of Oxford investigated how exercise frequency affected over 1.1 million healthy women.

The study spanned over 9 years. Researchers tracked the participant’s physical activity (like walking, cycling, and housework) and doctor’s visits.

The findings showed something profound.

Physically active women were less likely than inactive women to have health risks. These risks include heart disease and strokes.

Also, it turned out that activities like walking and housework produced a similar benefit as intense physical activity.

Here’s something else:

The women who exercised daily didn’t emerge better off than those who did some physical activity 2 or 3 times a week.

Daily exercisers were at more risk because those who exercised twice or three times had the lowest cardiovascular risk.

2. Longevity

One of the longest continuous studies was conducted by the Copenhagen City Heart Study.

The researchers published one of their main findings in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology

In the study, researchers followed the health of 1,098 healthy joggers and 3,950 healthy nonjoggers have since 2001.

Their findings suggest that light and moderate (slow) joggers have lower mortality than sedentary nonjoggers. 

But that’s not all.


Intense joggers — fast pace, more than 2 1/2 hours a week, or more than three times a week — had a mortality rate similar to sedentary people. 

But, intense joggers (over 2.5 hours a week or more than three times a week or fast pace) have a mortality rate not statistically different from that of the sedentary group.

The researchers concluded: 

…if the goal is to decrease the risk of death and improve life expectancy, going for a leisurely jog a few times per week at a moderate pace is a good strategy. Higher doses of running are not only unnecessary but may also erode some of the remarkable longevity benefits conferred by lower doses of running.

3. Risk of death

Another study by researchers at the German Cancer Research Center was published in the Heart journal.

The study enrolled over 1038 participants over 10 years.

Similar to the Danish study, the study reported that participants who are not physically active.

Also, those who exercised daily were more likely to die compared with less frequent exercisers. 

4. Weight gain

Exercising too much can create some changes in hormones. This includes changes to testosterone and stress hormones (cortisol). 

Studies have shown that these hormonal imbalances can lead to too much eating. 

This, in turn, could lead to your body burning muscle instead of fat, which might cause you to struggle with weight gain.

Related: Exercise Before Eating: Tips for Weight Loss and Strength

How much exercise is too much?

Keep in mind these studies we’ve discussed show association or correlation.

Even if researchers control for other factors like genetic profiles, it’s important to realize that the results don’t imply causation.

But here’s the biggest takeaway:

Too much of everything can be bad. It’s one thing to be active. And another thing is to be overly obsessed and compulsive when it comes to working out.


Here’s something else:

Too much exercise will vary from one person to another. There’s no fixed metric.

It will be different for people who are recovering from injuries, and have existing heart conditions, to the age of the person. 

Even more, it will vary depending on the type of exercise you do.

It’s probably not smart to do CrossFit every day. You need to rest.

A good rule will be the more intense your workout sessions, the more rest days you need.

How do you know if you’re exercising too much?

You experience chronic pain

Persistent joint pain, muscle pain, or back pain could be a sign that you might be overworking your body.

You have sleep problems

In general working out is great for sleep.

But, if you’re constantly having trouble winding down and getting a good night’s sleep you could be overtraining.

Sleep disturbances such as poor sleep quality or insomnia could keep you awake.

You have increased agitation

Constantly agitated and jittery? It might be because you’re training too much.



Excessive exercise can have some side effects.

Here’s the thing: most of us don’t exercise enough. Exercises help improve our mental health and physical well-being.

But according to the World Health Organization, a quarter of adults are not physically active enough.

And over 80 percent of the world’s adolescent population is insufficiently physically active.

This is partly because most jobs today have become sedentary.

That said though, it’s important to know your limits when you start exercising. Make time to rest. Do not overdo it.

And the best way is to balance motivating yourself to work out while not overdoing it.