Thu | Sep 20, 2018

TOO MUCH EXERCISE? By Dr Douglas Street

Published:Monday | May 18, 2015 | 11:01 PM

We have a saying that "too much of one thing is good for nothing". As a matter of fact, often, too much of a good thing may actually turn out to be harmful. And there are many examples of this phenomenon. Is this true also for exercise?

Most of us don't get enough exercise, and this results in suboptimal health. Many, as a consequence, suffer from diabetes, hypertension, obesity, and cardiovascular disease, which are largely preventable. Many of us find it difficult to make the time for exercise and others don't have enough motivation to sustain it.

The recommended amount of exercise is 20-30 minutes, four to five times a week. This has been found to be very helpful in improving our cardiovascular health, balancing our immune function, and keeping our energy level up, among other things.

Aerobic exercise is usually recommended. This includes walking, jogging, swimming, cycling, and dancing. Exercise that involves sudden starts and stops and a lot of jumping doesn't give a good workout and may not be sustainable as it may cause excessive wear and tear on the joints. This may lead to damaged joints, which may eventually prevent exercise in the future. The best type of exercise is one that is interesting, aerobic, and involves minimal stress on the joints.

Many of us think that since half an hour is okay, then one hour should be better, and two hours even better, right? Not really. Too much exercise may actually be harmful! A study came out recently which suggested that those who exercise too much may actually be at as high a risk as those who don't exercise! The study was not conclusive, though, as the number of persons in that category was too small for a conclusive recommendation. What it did show, however, was that those who indulged in the recommended amounts of exercise got the expected benefits.

Is it possible that excessive amounts of exercise may be harmful? It would appear so. Some persons have defective areas of their bodies which they may have been born with or developed later, for example, a brain aneurysm or a conduction defect in the heart. The strain of excessive exercise may be the proverbial last straw that breaks the camel's back. We do know of apparently healthy persons who collapse and die during exercise.

Moderation is the key - as always.

n Dr Douglas Street is a general practitioner and has private practices at Trinity Medical Centre, Trinity Mall at 3 Barnett Street in Montego Bay, and Omega Medical Centre at Plaza de Negril, Negril. Send feedback to