Side effects of excessive exercise

According to previous research, it is obvious that there are benefits of regular and moderate exercise because many papers point to the strong psychological and physiological benefits of moderate exercise. However, excessive exercise can have negative consequences such as exercise dependence and overtraining.

Excessive exercise can result in a decrease in the effectiveness of the immune system in fighting disease and an increase in negative psychological mood. In a practical way, exercise can be considered as a sequence from insufficient exercise to excessive exercise.

Negative psychological and biological consequences are associated with insufficient or excessive exercise. How much exercise is too much is a complex question for an athlete. Athletes are constantly challenging a delicate balance between coaching and overtraining as success in the sport depends on coaching.

Exercise addiction

Exercise addiction is considered a psychophysiological addiction to a regular exercise program. A person addicted to exercise loses the benefits of regular, moderate exercise. A mood disorder occurs in an addicted person in the event of a deviation from the regular exercise schedule.

Exercise causes a feeling of euphoria

From an attributional point of view, an exercise addict controls activity, as opposed to activity control. Compared to independent exercisers, dependent exercisers report restlessness and stress before exercise. They also show a higher degree of depression, anxiety and general discomfort if they deviate from the exercise schedule. An important characteristic of addicts is perseverance in exercise regardless of pain or injury (Anshel, 1991).

Exercise addicts are usually described by two terms:

The most persistent exerciser is usually an exercise addict. He is an exerciser who participates and trains directly for endurance competitions that require longer-term effort and perseverance. Often these endurance competitions are “super events” ranging from 50 to 100 miles. Chapman and Castro (1990), developed the Running Adeliction Scale (LJOT), the RAS for measuring exercise dependence.

Another term to describe an exercise addict is a passionate runner. There are more passionate runners than female runners. Passionate runners are highly motivated to exercise, and when prevented, they experience an increased sense of anxiety and dissatisfaction, (Conboy, 1994; Ogles et al., 1995).


Overtraining is a weak psychophysiological functioning, which should not be confused with the physiological principle of additional training load, and which is a confirmed inability to adapt to the stress of training.

It is manifested by mechanical load (connective tissue, cartilage and bone), metabolic load (insufficient glycogen levels) and psychological load (mood disorder). It is possible to link overtraining with fatigue during competition, decreased performance, mood disorders, emotional instability, decreased motivation, and susceptibility to infections due to decreased immune function (Kuipers, 1996).

From a biological point of view, even acute attacks of overtraining can result in a slowed immune response (Fry et al., 1994; Shephard and Shek, 1994). The inability of the immune system to fight infection and disease exposes the athlete to the negative consequences associated with overtraining.

One of the indicators of overtraining is mood disorder. Exercised muscle biopsies suggest a clear association between decreased muscle glycogen and an increase in mood disorders (Puffer and McShane, 1992). Monitoring mood disorders using the Profile of Mood States (POMS) is recommended as a way to identify the occurrence of exhaustion and overtraining.

Mood disorders are also associated with an athlete’s personality. Athletes in whom strength is expressed as a personality trait show a lower incidence of mood disorders during training.

Individuals with more pronounced mental strength can change their assessment of stress, caused by overtraining, into a less stressful form (Gross, 1994). It is also interesting to note the long-term consequences of mood disorders. According to Kirby (1996), in some cases it takes several weeks to return to the original level.

Given the important link between overtraining and mood disorders, it is logical to monitor mood and apply interventions in the form of a relaxed or modified training program in case of an increase in mood disorders above a predetermined level (Hollander, Meyers, &LeUnes, 1995).

Many factors, such as fatigue, exercise-induced nausea, decreased performance, and susceptibility to infections, indicate overtraining, but monitoring mood is the simplest and most effective early warning system.

If you want to avoid the negative consequences of excessive exercise, it is important to properly distribute the intensity and frequency of training and rest.

How to avoid overtraining?

Here are some thing that you have to consider if you want to avoid overtraining:

  • Balance your diet
  • Consume adequate carbohydrates
  • Post workout diet
  • Get proper rest
  • Set your restrictions
  • Sleep more
  • Go to a massage

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