When Exercise Is Too Hard

Do you grit your teeth when it’s time to workout?  Maybe your intuition (your belly brain) is trying to tell you something.  It turns out that the latest research is dispelling some of the conventional wisdom regarding the best methods for working out.  Some of the workouts we’ve been encouraged to do aren’t so good for us after all.  While cardio exercise is important and beneficial, you can over-do it.   If your cardio sessions are too hard or too long, you can experience problems such as:

1) A weakened immune system.

2) Release of too much cortisol (a stress hormone) which can lead to disease.

3) Trouble sleeping if you workout late in the day or evening.

4) Small tears in muscle fibers that are hard to heal if you continue exercising too much.

5) Increased risk of injury including weakening of lungs and possible cardiac arrest.

6) Tissue breakdown.

7) Release of pro-aging free radical molecules.

Scientific findings indicate that all-out, high intensity aerobic activity lasting more than 15 minutes can initiate these negative effects.  The best type of aerobic exercise is where you alternate the pace of your activity, with more moderate exertion predominating over short bursts of high intensity movement.  An example of a properly paced workout would be:

1) A few minutes of warming up.

2) Thirty seconds of high intensity movement.

3) Ninety seconds of moderately paced movement.

4) Repeat steps 1 & 2 for a total of 8 repetitions.

5) Cool down movements for a few minutes.  Total time: approx. 22 minutes

This type of paced cardio workout (also called ‘interval’ training) only needs to be done 2 or 3 times a week, and when combined with other pleasurable activities (walking, gardening, swimming, biking, etc.) can keep you fit.  Interestingly enough, bellydancing is perfect for paced workouts.  As any bellydancer knows, bellydancing is inherently paced by the use of the alternating tempos found in traditional belly dance music.

The bottom line is that you don’t maximize your health benefits when you exercise too hard; in fact you can tear your health down.  To get the most out of your workout routines, do something you enjoy and pace yourself according to the principals outlined above.  You’ll find that you really don’t have to work too hard to be fit.



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