Can too much Exercise be Harmful?

 

The importance of physical fitness is something that most of us understand. It consists of workouts that elevate heart rate and perspiration. It consists of muscle strength, which is the ability of a muscle or group of muscles to exert force against resistance.  We know that getting enough physical fitness training is linked with reduced heart disease, diabetes, overweight/obesity, and stroke. Additionally, being physically fit is linked with increased longevity and mental health. But what is considered the right amount of physical fitness training? Incorporating appropriate amounts and types of physical fitness training into your weekly regimen is a discipline that requires understanding and practice.

 

How much should we exercise? 

The American College of Sports Medicine recommends the following exercise guidelines for Cardiorespiratory Exercise and Resistance Exercise:

 

Cardiorespiratory Exercise. Adults should get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week. These recommendations can be met through 30-60 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise (five days per week) or 20-60 minutes of vigorous-intensity exercise (three days per week). Gradual progression of exercise time, frequency and intensity is recommended for best adherence and least injury risk.

 

Resistance Exercise. Adults should train each major muscle group two or three days each week using a variety of exercises and equipment, performing two to four sets for each exercise. For each exercise, 8-12 repetitions improve strength and power, 10-15 repetitions improve strength in middle-age and older persons starting exercise, and 15-20 repetitions improve muscular endurance. Use heavier weights with less repetitions and lighter weights with more repetitions. Very light or light intensity is best for older persons or previously sedentary adults starting exercise.Adults should wait at least 48 hours between resistance training sessions.

 

While guidelines are set forth for how much exercise we should get in a week, it is sometimes unclear at what point too much exercise becomes counterproductive to one’s health. Preparation for intense events, such as some military schools, marathons, ultramarathons, triathlons,etc., can sometimes trigger short-term negative health effects and/or injury due to overtraining.

 

Some common symptoms that you could be over-training

·         Performance

o   Early Fatigue

o   Increased Heart Rate with less Effort

o   Decreased Strength, Endurance, Speed, and Coordination

o   Decreased Aerobic Capacity

o   Delayed Recovery

·         Physiological

o   Persistent Fatigue

o   On-going Muscle Soreness

o   Loss of Appetite

o   Excessive Weight Loss

o   Excessive Loss of Body Fat

o   Increased Resting Heart Rate

o   Chronic Muscle Soreness

o   Difficulty Sleeping

o   Frequent Colds or infections

·         Psychological

o   Irritation or Anger

o   Depression

o   Difficulty in Concentration

o   Increased Sensitivity to Emotional Stress

o   Loss of Competitive Drive and Enthusiasm

 

Some common injuries due to overtraining.

Among military personnel, studies have shown the prevalence of certain injuries:

·         Meniscal tears/knee injuries

·         Shoulder dislocations

·         Rotator cuff tears

·         Achilles tendinitis

·         Stress fractures

·         Cervical & lumbar strains

 

Over-training occurs when the frequency and intensity of training exceeds our body’s ability to rest and recover.  When experiencing heavy training loads, give your body what it needs:

·         Nutrition- Healthy dietary habits each day can greatly enhance your ability to perform at your maximum potential. Sufficient carbohydrate intake helps provide the body energy and aids in muscle recovery.

·         Sleep- It is a vital component for peak physical performance. Getting an appropriate amount of sleep every day can help you recover faster.

·         Hydration- Staying hydrated at all times is critical to good health, energy, recovery and performance.

 

Take home point

Overtraining can lead to injury and common symptoms of these can be triggers that tell us we may need to modify our routines. Physical training should be focused on quality and quantity. Varied exercise routines incorporating multi-dimensional movements and high intensity exercise are key for a healthy body that is not overextended. The higher the intensity, the greater need for recovery. When intensity increases, we typically need to decrease the frequency in order to ensure our body has adequate amounts of time to recuperate.  Recovery is every bit as important as the training. Early awareness is always important but prevention of overtraining will be key to long-term health. 

News Roundup: Mental Health

 

An important topic currently circling through news outlets is the issue of mental health. In the past, mental health was so stigmatized that it was not often discussed. However, with more visibility and increasing research on the matter, people are beginning to value and prioritize their mental health much in the same way as they do their physical health.

This week’s news roundup brings a collection of articles related to mental health including strategies to calm anxiety, new research on PTSD treatment, and other global conversations around mental health.

This is the Fastest Way to Calm Down.TIME. “Now scientists describe why deep breathing, including the breath-focus of meditation, can induce such calm and tranquility…breathing can have a direct effect on the overall activity level of the brain.”

New Research Delivers Hope for More Accurate PTSD Diagnosis and Treatment.Huffington Post. “Researchers are working at brain banks around the country to see what is going on inside the heads of veterans. They are examining the brains of deceased veterans in hopes of knowing more accurately what effects trauma ― psychological or physical ― has had on the brain. That could someday lead to better diagnostic tests, treatments, clues into where PTSD originates and evolves.”

Playing Tetris Can Reduce PTSD Symptoms, Study Says.TIME. “[R]esearchers found that those who played Tetris as part of the experience had fewer intrusive memories of the trauma in total over the week immediately following the accident than the other group. They also found that the intrusive memories diminished more quickly. This fit the researchers' hypothesis that playing Tetris, a visually demanding game, could prevent the intrusive aspects of the traumatic memories from becoming consolidated in the mind.”

Climate Change Could Have a Serious Impact on Mental Health. Huffington Post. “The American Psychological Association and the environmental group ecoAmerica published a report describing how climate change is poised to take a grievous toll on our mental health. The report, ‘Mental Health and our Changing Climate: Impacts, Implications and Guidance,’ concludes that people living in a number of regions could become more susceptible to post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, depression, suicide and other mental health issues as a result of climate change.”

Britain’s Young Royals Promote Conversation on Mental Health.The Washington Post. “Britain’s Prince William, his wife, Kate, and his brother Prince Harry are spearheading a campaign to encourage people to talk openly about mental health issues. The young royals released 10 films Thursday as part of their ‘Heads Together’ campaign to change the national conversation about mental health…The royals said they hope the stigma surrounding mental health problems can be lifted. They urged people to talk more openly about these issues.”

 

Fuel for Fitness: How to Power Up for a Workout

When it comes to exercise, we often forget that setting ourselves up for success requires more than just what we do in the gym. How we treat out bodies before and after the gym plays a big part in our health. One easy way to ensure we get the most out of our workouts is to properly fuel our bodies beforehand.

 

Pre-workout nutrition is a balance between eating enough to prevent low blood sugar, weakness, and strength, but not eating too much to where we feel sluggish too full. A good rule of thumb is to eat larger meals 3-4 hours before a workout or a smaller meal/snack 1-2 hours before exercise. During a workout the body pulls energy from carbohydrate storage. Therefore, the best things to eat before a workout should be primarily made of complex carbohydrates (whole grains), with moderate levels of protein and fat to maintain long-term energy.

 

Some examples of good pre-workout meals to eat 3-4 hours before a workout include:

  • Turkey sandwich on whole wheat with fruit
  • Whole wheat pasta with ground turkey and vegetables
  • Grilled chicken breasts, steamed vegetables, and a sweet potato

 

 

 

Some examples of snacks that can be eaten 1-2 hours before a workout include:

  • Low fat cheese and crackers
  • Apple slices with peanut butter
  • Nuts, fruit, and cheese

 

 

Another way we can maintain energy levels before a workout is to fuel our bodies throughout the day with healthy snacks. This will keep our blood sugar level stable and prevent overeating at meals. Pick foods that are satisfying and nutrient dense, providing plenty of vitamins and minerals. Keeping these snacks handy throughout the day make it easier to make good food choices and have appropriate fuel for exercise.

 

Good snack options:

Nuts- high in protein and healthy fat

Bananas – high in potassium and fiber

Avocados – high in healthy fats, fiber, and Vitamins A, E, B, and K

Cheese and Yogurt – good source of calcium

 

Avoiding sugary and fatty foods keep us from feeling sluggish from a drastic drop in blood sugar during our workouts. This spike and drop is caused by foods that have sugar that is quickly absorbed and then dropped out of the blood stream. These foods are “high” on the Glycemic (or blood sugar) Index. A quick way to tell which foods are high on the Glycemic Index is to think about how quickly those foods dissolve in your mouth. For example, cotton candy is made of just sugar so it dissolves in your mouth instantaneously. On the other hand, more complex foods such as nuts don’t dissolve in your mouth (or it would take a really long time!). This rate of absorption in your mouth mimics the rate of absorption of the sugar into your bloodstream.

 

Finally, if we drink water consistently throughout the day we can hydrate our bodies ahead of our workouts. Dehydration reduces performance! Once we are thirsty, we are already dehydrated. So stay ahead of the issue with continual hydration before and during a workout. These tips of proper pre-workout habits will ensure our bodies are fueled for optimal performance.

News Roundup: Benefits of the Mediterranean Diet

Science suggests that the Mediterranean diet may play a beneficial role in our health, including heart and brain health.  This week’s news roundup brings a collection of articles related to the potential health benefits of the Mediterranean diet.

Mediterranean Diet vs. Statins to Prevent Heart Attack and Stroke? “According to a recent study, for example, found that switching to a Mediterranean diet prevented about 30 percent of heart attacks, strokes and deaths from heart disease in people at high risk.

Mediterranean diet may reduce risk of form of breast cancer“The study published in the International Journal of Cancer on Monday suggests it could also significantly reduce the chances of women getting estrogen-receptor-negative (ER-negative) breast cancer, a postmenopausal form of the disease that cannot be treated with hormone therapy.”

Mediterranean diet may have lasting effects on brain health  “A new study shows that older people who followed a Mediterranean diet retained more brain volume over a three-year period than those who did not follow the diet as closely.”

Many large scale clinical and population health studies have tested the efficacy of the Mediterranean style of eating.  The results indicate that a diet similar to that of the Mediterranean region is linked with many physical health benefits including reduced risk of heart disease; reduced risk of death from heart disease, cancer and Parkinson’s; reduced blood pressure and cholesterol; reduced risk of obesity in children and adults; and reduced risk of Type II Diabetes.

March is national nutrition month 2017 which discusses many topics about why  Mediterranean diet is still a very popular diet. 

Why Mediterranean-based eating is trendy…again  “But the biggest proof that what’s old is new again just might be supermarket shelves. Beyond the piles of tomatoes and peppers in the produce aisle are an influx of products elevating some of the diet’s core foods (think olives, fennel, and the aforementioned yogurt).”

What is Mind/Body Exercise?

 

 

It has been shown that breathing exercises used to help with relaxation can have beneficial effects on overall health (Hoge, Guidos, Mete, Bui, Pollack, Simon, & Dutton 2017) A guided relaxation exercise with a focus on the breath allows us to relax our body, reducing anxiety, tension, and stress. It has also been shown to decrease Post-traumatic Stress Disorder symptoms in military veterans (Seppala, Nitschke, Tudorascu, Hayes, Goldstein, Nguyen, Perlman, & Davidson 2014).

Breathing is a great way to relax and increase our awareness. Developing a “breathing awareness” will not only allow us to relax now, but it can also help us to stay calm and focused during stressful situations.

To get a full, deep breath, close your mouth, breathe slowly through your nose, and feel your diaphragm rise as you gradually fill your diaphragm and lungs with air. Hold for one second. Exhale through your nose slowly. Repeat.

Mind/Body exercises are also exercises that involve movements/poses while focusing energy on form and breath. Some examples of these mind/body exercises are yoga, Pilates, and gyrotonics. These types of mind/body exercises allow a focused mental energy on the body, its form and its function. Gyrotonics is a type of exercise that includes movements from other types of exercise such as yoga, dance, gymnastics, swimming and tai chi.

Allowing time in our schedule to learn breathing, relaxation, and other mind/body exercises such as yoga or pilates will foster a healthy relationship with our mental and physical self. This relationship can often help to promote a sense of  overall well-being.