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More is Not Always More

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Mie Ahmt

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Ava Meltzer, Student Life Editor

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The benefits of exercise are told everywhere. Nike television ads, health magazines, and celebrities all glorify working out. Moderate exercise is healthy for the body.  However, the world of health has heavily promoted an unhealthy obsession of overuse that makes training dangerous. Fitness gurus gloat about 10 mile runs, 2 hour power yoga classes, and squatting hundreds of pounds. What these exercise enthusiasts do not know is that with exercise, more is not always better. Numerous studies prove that moderate exercise is beneficial, but excessive exercise is damaging. Most know excessive exercise causes sore muscles, but it can also lead to serious tears, diseases, and even early death.

With excessive exercise comes overuse injury, which is damage to a bone, muscle, ligament, or tendon due to repetitive stress on the body. Overuse injuries, although can heal rather quickly with rest, physical therapy, or medicine, can be more painful than they seem. Overuse injuries include runner’s knee, pain just below the kneecap, achilles tendonitis, inflammation or rupture of the tendon, shin splints, irritation at the shine bone, and many more. Even more painful are muscle tears where the athlete automatically feels terrible pain, then the muscle spasms and swells up. When this first happens, the muscle cannot be used at all. Although these injuries can heal with correct treatment, it is still extremely painful, and all too common when one is working out too often and too hard.

If one ignores these over-running injuries and continues their norm of over-training, more serious problems can occur over time. For instance, over training weakens one’s immune system, putting one at greater risk for colds and infections. Endurance athletes such as marathon runners have notably weak immune systems, especially when it comes to upper respiratory tract infections like colds. In addition to being more prone to infections, when an obsessive athlete become ill, their symptoms are more stubborn and severe. Chronic insomnia can also result from over-training as running for too many miles and lifting too much weight activates stress responsive systems, including a release of adrenaline, which makes it difficult to fall and stay asleep. Exercising for two hours can also cause mood changes. Common changes include depression, anger, and anxiety as these stress hormones are released when one is physically overloaded.

Even more startling is that this is not the most dangerous aspect of over-exercising. During an intense workout, the body works extremely hard to burn fat and sugar for fuel. Like burning anything else, this emits smoke. However, the smoke inside the body are free radicals. Free radicals are molecules that cause damage to other molecules, in a process known as oxidative stress. Long, intense endurance training can cause more oxidative stress than humans can suppress. With overuse training, antioxidants that naturally suppress free radicals are depleted, then free radicals overwhelm the cells, producing oxidative stress. Over time, this oxidative stress increases the risk of heart disease, cancer, and early death.

These risks are not from simply exercising. These dangers are from obsessively and unreasonably over doing exercise. Moderate exercise can help maintain a healthy weight, reduce risks to many diseases, and improve mood. But when one’s regular two mile run becomes a ten mile run every morning, these benefits disappear and turn into dangers. The advantages of exercise disappear after 60 minutes, and with the crossing of moderate exercise to extreme training comes danger.

Exercise is healthy, and a necessity for physical fitness and good health. Regular, moderate physical activity brings universal benefits. However, it is easy to confuse dedication with obsession. When fitness enthusiast transform into someone who works out 2 hours a day, every day, benefits quickly transform into destruction. Just remember, too much of a good thing is never a good thing.

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More is Not Always More