How much exercise is too much?

I do aerobics about five times a week for about two hours each time. Sometimes I alternate with the stair-climbing machine. Am I doing too much?

Congratulations on your commitment to exercise. Although you’re doing a lot of high-intensity exercise, you’re taking some smart steps to prevent overtraining: Allowing two rest days a week gives your body time to recover, and alternating a lower-impact activity with the high-impact aerobics lowers the amount of stress you’re putting on your joints. There are no specific rules as to how much exercise is too much. However, there are some warning signs of overtraining that you should watch out for:


  • Trouble falling asleep at night or waking up several times a night
  • A resting heart rate that is elevated in the morning
  • Lots of injuries, such as stress fractures or joint problems
  • Pushing yourself to exercise when you have an injury
  • Frequent irritability
  • Poor appetite
  • A cold that won’t go away
  • Not menstruating

If you experience any of these symptoms, ease up on the exercise. Even if you don’t have any problems, I’d suggest that you cut back on some of the high-intensity aerobic activity and replace it with strength training, such as lifting weights. This will help you firm up and build muscle, which is very important because you start to lose muscle at about the age of 30. The more muscle you have, the more calories you burn — even when you’re sleeping. Also, everyday tasks such as lugging groceries are easier, and your joints are protected from high-impact activities. Ask a trainer at your gym to set you up on a basic total body workout. Do it two to three times a week, allowing at least a day’s rest between workouts.

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