Exercise is good for you, right? Most of the time, the answer is yes. But sometimes exercise has the opposite effect, harming you more than it helps you. So, how do you know when exercise is too much?

Consider your lifestyle and see if you fall into one of these 4 categories. 

You have a highly active job. 

If you work on your feet all day you may not need a formal exercise program in your off hours. Pushing and moving heavy equipment, driving nails and climbing ladders, or assisting people out of bed requires physical strength and endurance. You get a workout from these daily movements and additional exercise might be too much. Additional exercise will likely yield diminishing returns and overexertion may be harmful. Trade formal cardio or strength programs, for active recovery and restful activities during off-work hours. Light stretching, yoga, or sleep may be more beneficial. 

You are injured or have untreated pain. 

If you have chronic pain and are pushing through it, this is a sign that exercise is too much. Know the difference between an injury and generalized soreness. The additional wear and tear on your body will likely exacerbate your current condition and slow down recovery. Any misalignment in your body can create a series of issues that compound with time. Continuing to grind in the midst of pain establishes patterns that are hard to undo. If you are injured or have untreated pain, it may be time to seek professional help to help with biomechanical misalignment and necessary adjustments. 

You prioritize exercise above everything else. 

Making exercise a “non-negotiable” in your day is important, but there are times when exercise is too much and it harms other parts of your life. Have a consistent workout time on your calendar, but give yourself permission to thoughtfully skip it when a rare opportunity arises. These might include visits from out-of-town friends and family or other infrequent opportunities to sit down for a cup of coffee instead of going for a run or hitting the gym (or maybe you do it together!).  If you prioritize your workout over a person, you miss the opportunity to build something far more important than your physical body.

You rely on exercise solely for weight loss. 

Exercise has tremendous benefits. It strengthens your heart, builds muscles and bones, increases stability and balance, boosts your emotional health, and so much more. It’s a crucial part of a healthy life. But research proves that exercise is a relatively small factor in weight loss, especially cardio based movement like running, biking, or walking. Losing body fat happens primarily through nutritional adjustments. The cliche “you can’t out exercise a bad diet” is true. Watch this eye opening video to see what this looks like. If you are playing mental gymnastics with yourself about having to work out hard to “earn” food or “work off” what you ate, exercise is too much. 

Should you exercise regularly? Yes. There are so many reasons it’s an important part of a healthy life. The pros outweigh the cons.

Just be mindful of when exercise is too much and it does more harm than good to your physical, emotional, and relational health. Exercise can support your wellbeing or it can be a detriment when exercise is too much. 

Be kind and gentle to your body. It’s the only one you’ve got.