YOUR HEALTH | Overdoing your exercise

BALANCE: Daily exercise is great for improving your health and well-being, but too much may cause some problems. Picture: Shutterstock.
BALANCE: Daily exercise is great for improving your health and well-being, but too much may cause some problems. Picture: Shutterstock.

Q: Is there such thing as too much exercise?

High Intensity Interval training (HIIT) has become popular recently. As little as seven minutes of this, three times a week for 12 weeks can give similar, if not better, results for many values related to heart disease and diabetes as well as reducing body fat.

Certainly, the higher the intensity of the activity you do, the less time you need to complete it to get the same health benefits. However, it is important that you have good base fitness before starting these programs.

If you have unstable heart disease, obesity, cancer or diabetes, it is important you consult with your medical specialist, including your sport and exercise physician before starting any such high-intensity activity program.

It is also important to remember that too much exercise can have no added health benefits above exercising at moderate intensity for two hours every day or running more than one hour every day, and may in fact tip you into injury and illness.

The better conditioned you are to exercise, the better you can tolerate higher loads, but remember, exercising at 10 times the minimum requirement of 30 minutes' moderate-intensity activity a day can increase your risk of dying, so best not to overdo it.

It is common to have some body aches in the first 24 hours after exercise as your body adapts to new loads, but exercising beyond your body's ability to recover may lead to tiredness, fatigue and sometimes persisting joint, muscle, tendon or bone pain.

It is important not to resume the same activity until this has resolved and gradually increase your exercise loads steadily.

Should your aches and pains persist despite varying your activity, or you find exercise becomes a compulsion, it is best you consult your physiotherapist, GP or ask for a medical referral to a sport and exercise physician, where further expert opinion is required.

It is important to complement any activity program with a comfortable pair of footwear, the appropriate clothing and strengthening exercises for all your body parts so that you are strong enough to cope with the loads you want to put through your body.

A rest day each week and good sleep patterns are vital to allow the body to regenerate, recover and feel fresh.

Getting enough exercise

Research shows that sitting around too much increases your risk of chronic disease, which may well lead to an early death.

In fact, people who exercise regularly and meet the physical activity guidelines live on average seven years longer than those who are physically inactive.

It also shows that as little as 15 minutes of physical activity a day can reduce your risk significantly and improve your quality of life.

Do more than this and the gift of exercise keeps giving.

The national physical activity guidelines for adults recommend 150-300 minutes (2.5 to 5 hours) of moderate intensity activities or 75-150 minutes (1.25 to 2.5 hours) of vigorous intensity activities.

This can be spread out over five days. The guidelines vary for pregnant women, children and the elderly. For all age groups this should be balanced with two to three strength sessions like yoga, pilates or tai chi each week.

To reach moderate intensity activity, it is important to feel your breathing challenged, but still be able to hold a short conversation.

This can be achieved with many common incidental activities we can perform on most days like brisk walking, stairs or cycling.

  • Today's answer is provided by Melbourne sport and exercise physician Dr Adam Castricum, through HealthShare, a digital company dedicated to improving the health of regional Australians. Submit questions, and find more answers, at