How much exercise is too much?
15 questions to ask yourself…
What moderation looks like
What is exercise moderation? Moderation is not a prescription or a rule. It’s not a particular type of exercise, number of sessions, or duration of activity, and will look different for everyone. Moderation is simply letting go of extremes and excess. As dietitian Zoe Nicholson has explained before, when it comes to eating we can find our own ‘moderation’ with intuitive eating. Listening to internal cues like hunger, fullness, and what we truly feel like and feel satisfied with, whilst letting go of external rules, helps us to find our own moderation.
Internal cues vs External rules
Similarly with exercise, we can learn to listen to our body’s cues rather than force ourselves to follow external rules, our idea of ‘shoulds’ or what everyone else is doing.
“I WISH I was addicted to exercise!”
Inactivity is one end of the extreme, but over-exercising can also be detrimental to your physical and mental health. The idea of over-exercising, exercise addiction or exercise dependency can be difficult for people to grasp. They ask “How can lots of exercise be bad for you?”, or “But being super fit equals being super healthy, right?!”, or they simply declare “I wish I was addicted to exercise!”. Exercising compulsively can lead to exhaustion, injuries, amenorrhea (cessation of your menstrual cycle), anxiety, depression and isolation.
What are some of the signs that your relationship with exercise has moved away from moderation and into excess, compulsion or dependency? How much exercise is too much for me?
Ask yourself these questions and ponder the answers…
– Have I been forcing myself to do exercise I dislike?
– Have I associated exercise with ‘making up for’, ‘balancing out’ or ‘compensating for’ food?
– Do I feel anxious if my exercise regime needs to change due to unexpected events?
– Can I enjoy rest days without guilt?
– Do I feel worse about my body on days I don’t exercise?
– Do I fixate on the amount of calories burned during an activity?
– Have I stopped doing low intensity activities I enjoy (like walking) because it feels like there’s ‘no point’ to easy exercise?
– Do I exercise intensively before celebrations with food, to ‘earn’ the big meal?
– Do I exercise when I’m injured or ill?
– Do I exercise to the point of pain and beyond?
– Despite being fit, do I regularly feel fatigued or unwell?
– Do I regularly exercise for much longer than I originally intended?
– Have I regularly cancelled important social and family events to exercise instead?
– Have I repeatedly, unsuccessfully tried to reduce the amount of exercise I do?
– Do I define my self-worth via my exercise routine or fitness abilities? How would I feel about my self-worth if I couldn’t exercise?
Note: This is not a diagnosis or a definitive way to determine problems with exercise, it’s a way for you to become more mindful about your attitude towards, and behaviour around, exercise. If you suspect you might have an unhealthy relationship with exercise we urge you to reach out for help.