With Gym’s popping up on every other corner and giving hope to members for weight loss and healthy bodies, there also lurks beneath the promises some dangerous trends.
“No pain, no gain,” “I just need to exercise more,” “You need to be in the Gym five days a week for an hour.” This is the all too familiar exercise industry hype mentality and is causing many unnecessary injuries. That exercise must be tough and uncomfortable to be of benefit, or overwhelming gym members with exercises beyond their fitness levels is deceptive and wrong. True, athletes can get away with most of the sustained high intensity movements, but for the average de-conditioned or obese person, the sustained high intensity of many movements is a potential disaster physically for the unsuspecting member.
The benefits of exercise includes:
- stimulated nerve growth
- the release of growth hormones
- endorphin levels raised
- nitric oxide response enhanced
- insulin receptor sensitivity stimulated
- oxygen, circulation, and muscle strength and endurance increased
- stronger heart
- leaner bodies
- restful sleep
But new evidence also indicates oxidative stress and the risk for overtraining syndrome with extended high intensity exercise as an increasing danger. 1 According to Wall Street Journal recently, “There is no evidence that running a marathon leads to lasting weight loss.” This is possibly due to the increased calorie intake required during training while neglecting to decrease calorie intake after marathon ceases.
Dangers in exercising
While there are many benefits to exercise, including cardiovascular health, prolonged intense overtraining can result in physical damage. One of these is heart muscle scarring. Over exercise is possible in conventional cardio exercising and may be counterproductive. Research shows spending more years exercising strenuouslyas in marathon races has been associated with a greater likelihood of heart damage. 3 “Research at the Mayo Clinic found that more than an hour of intense aerobic activity per day put runners and cyclers at heightened risk of serious heart problems, including irregular heartbeat, clogged arteries and scarring.” 4 In March of 2012, marathon runner, Micah True, was found dead after a 12 mile run, due to an enlarged and scarred heart. He was only 58. Investigators suspected this was due to chronic excessive endurance exercising. JimmFixx, 52, author of The Complete Guide Book of Running, also died of a massive heart attack while running. Experts say that even one marathon a year is associated with temporary damage to a runner’s body.
What happens, researchers theorize, is that “repeated structural changes to the heart occur during excessive endurance training or competition and when people take part in these activities multiple times over several years, scar tissue can form and weaken the heart muscle.”4According to James H. O’Keefe, this would be termed “diminishing returns” on your health investment.
However, not being a marathon runner doesn’t mean you are not at risk. Exercise in excess of our adaptive capacity causes catabolic oxidative damage. Daily high intensity exercise tears down muscle tissue and the body can’t repair and contributes to the accelerated and damaging aging process.
Is Exercise addictive?
It can be. During exercise, endorphins are released creating a sense of euphoria and a “feel good” state. According to WebMD, when you exercise these endorphins interact with the receptors in your brain that reduce your perception of pain. The feeling that follows a run or workout is often described as “euphoric.” That feeling, also known as “runner’s high,” can be accompanied by a positive and energizing outlook on life. Soon the exerciser begins to think, “A little bit is good, more is better.” “I can’t live without it.” This is similar to an addict’s brain. “A little alcohol makes me feel good, more is better,” and the cycle of addiction continues. In exercise this has been termed, “Metabolic Overtraining Syndrome.” 1 Just like in other addictions there are health consequences, MOS increases oxidative stress and decreases circulating antioxidant concentrations.
In order to stimulate beta-endorphins into circulation, we need high intensity exercise, but not for long durations such as common practice with many trainers and exercise enthusiasts who insist on exercising 5-7 days a week for one or two hours to get any benefits. What research is showing for benefit is to reach 70% of one’s maximum heart rate or to be out of breath after the workout for 20-30 seconds.
In addition, exercise of high intensity for long durations results in significant elevations in salivary cortisol, but not for low or moderate intensity. 8 Why is this important? High morning cortisol and high intense workouts puts a person into metabolic overtraining syndrome and greater health risks. Other health risks are lowered pH. As I stated in my last article about the dangers of an acidic internal environment, when a person over exercises, their body’s acid levels drop. Low pH causes the body to expend calcium to buffer the high acid. The calcium is usually pulled from the bones. This also contributes to “diminishing returns” on a person’s health. If a person is starving themselves with reduced calories, the body becomes in a state of catabolic stress and over acidic. It then burns sugar and glycogen, but doesn’t change the metabolism. The more intense the exercise, the greater the benefits, but at a greater risk for damage.
Some signs that may indicate a person is doing more than their body can handle include:
- Increased injuries–tendonitis, stress fracture, joint or muscle pain, shin splints.
- Inability to recover from workouts in a reasonable time
- Irritability or aggression with exercising
- Weakened immune system
- Loss of menstrual cycle
- Lack of weight loss
- Oxidative stress
- Systemic inflammation
High intense exercise produces sweat. The body sweats for a reason. It’s trying to stay cool. This also causes loss of vital electrolytes and minerals and produces free radicals and oxidative stress which lead to breakdown of tissues. Replacing these electrolytes with water, antioxidants, and minerals is critical for recovery.
Safe Exercise tips:
- If you suspect you might have “Metabolic Over training Syndrome,” cut back on your workouts. Working out less provides time for recovery and the body to grow stronger. Training less for more effective results. 30 minutes, 2-3 days a week will yield great and far lasting results.
- Replacing long cardio with shorter high intensity bursts produces greater results in less time. It is the intensity, not how many days you are in the Gym that counts. Think about sports. They are played in intervals. Intervals reap far more benefits and protects the cardiovascular system.
- This High intensity interval training, called HIIT, means short duration, short periods, with rest, and repeated exercise and has the advantage of strengthening skeletal and heart muscle by applying a load, resting and repeating. It takes only a fraction of time compared to long runs and long hours on the same equipment.
- If you are experiencing any digestive issues, arthritis, adrenal fatigue, pituitary dysfunction, or neurological issues, or you know you are in a de-conditioned state of physical fitness, exercise has to be built up slowly and verified by a medical doctor, naturopath, chiropractor, neuromuscular therapist, or holistic healthcare practitioner. Start with 3-5 minutes several times a day if needed. Even a few squats, chair push- ups , tummy crunches, and jumping jacks at home will be beneficial for most people.
- Don’t be afraid to question a trainer when common sense tells you not to perform an exercise that doesn’t feel right for you, your back, your knees, shoulders, or another body part. Just because you see an exercise being performed in the gym, does not make it right or safe for you. Athletes have a greater margin for error due to better conditioning. Don’t try to measure up to that standard if you are not exercising for that purpose.
- Consume plenty of fresh filtered water, fresh vitamin C rich fruits and colorful vegetables, along with turmeric, and omega 3 oils after your intense exercising. Gold’s Gym now offers fresh protein smoothies from Urthshakes for members.
Special packages for new members are available at Gold’s Gym. Stop by and ask a specialist for details. To find out about and sign up for classes taught by Christine Andrew at Gold’s Gym, contact Kim Hadden at 447-4653.
Christine Andrew, CNC, CFDM is a certified nutrition consultant and certified functional diagnostic medicine consultant. She operates a natural healthcare practice with Individualized Nutrition Servicesat 348 Cernon St. SteA in Vacaville. She can be reached at www.individualizedwellness.net or www.christineandrew-cnc.com.
- Kharrazian, Datis, DHSc, DC, MS. Neuroendocrine Immunology of Exercise, Apex Energetics. 2013
- Bramos, Rick. Danger in the Gym. 2 Days 2 Fitness. 2013
- Mercola, Joseph, MD. The Exercise Mistake Proven to Damage Your Heart. Peak Fitness. March 2011
- Adams, Mike. Exercising Too Much. Renegade Health, 2013
- Grisanti, Ron, DC. Functional Diagnostic Medicine: Sequoia Educational Systems, 2010
- Circulation. 2003 Aug 5; 108(5): 530-535. “Effect of different intensities of exercise on endothelium-dependent vasodilation in humans: role of endothelium-dependent nitric oxide and oxidative stress.”
- Atherosclerosis. 1999 Aug; 145(2): 341-349 “ Intense physical training decreases circulating antioxidants and endothelium-dependent vasodilatation in vivo.”
- J Strength Cond Res. 2002 May; 16(2): 286-289. “Effect of exercise at three exercise intensities on salivary cortisol.”