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Are you doing too much exercise?

Are you doing too much exercise? By Alicia Johnson, Health & Fitness Coach and Director at Unleash Yourself Health and Fitness Coaching This may seem like an odd question, bec...

Are you doing too much exercise?

Are you doing too much exercise?
By Alicia Johnson, Health & Fitness Coach and Director at Unleash Yourself Health and Fitness Coaching

This may seem like an odd question, because exercise is good for us and the common complaint is that we’re not doing enough, but is there really is such a thing as too much exercise? It may surprise you to learn that you could be getting better results from spending less time working out.

If you’re not seeing results, or your progress has stalled despite eating well and getting your sweat on every day, there is a chance you could be doing too much of a good thing. Many exercise recommendations and popular fitness programs are still based on the school of thought that to lose weight we need to burn more calories than we consume. We are encouraged to diet, measure our food and make sure to burn hundreds of calories every time we work out.

But this way of thinking doesn’t take into account food quality, exercise quality, stress, sleep and the effects these things can have on our fat loss efforts.

Let’s discuss exercise. The myth that more is always better needs some clearing up.

If your goal is to lead a healthy, nourished and balanced lifestyle, your exercise routine needs to be one that you can sustain long term, without burning yourself out, giving up or starting again next week! Exercise places a lot of stress on the body and too much stress (whether it’s from work, relationships, life events or exercise) can cause our bodies to become unbalanced. Without proper recovery or downtime from that stress, we risk issues such as fatigue, weight gain and even chronic illness.

When we are chronically stressed, our fat-storing hormones can go a little crazy because primitively, the only chronic stress placed on our bodies was famine. Inherently, our bodies know the best way to protect us is to store fat. Therefore exercise that is chronic in nature, such as long continuous bouts of cardio, can do more harm than good for our fat loss efforts. Intense daily training sessions that don’t allow enough rest in between, and even copious amounts of Bikram yoga, can send those same hormones into fat storing overdrive.

Our bodies recover, repair and adapt to become stronger when we allow our bodies to rest. Rest days, massages, pampering and time off training are just as important as the training itself. Including gentle forms of exercise like walking and yoga are super important to balance out your strength and cardio sessions.

How would you know if you’re over training?

  • Difficulty losing fat/weight despite regular training and eating well
  • Not recovering well from training – sore, tired body
  • Increase in injuries or noticing more niggles and pains
  • Impaired immune system (more colds/flu)
  • Lack of motivation or desire to exercise
  • Generally feeling more stressed and tired

NB: All of these things could be indicative of other problems, but if you’re a serious regular exerciser, adapting your routine to allow more time off might be a great place to start.

So what’s the best and most effective way to exercise?

This totally depends on your goal. If it’s to improve your running, cycling or sport performance then it makes sense that those forms of exercise are the way to go.

If your goal is to achieve a fit, lean body and balanced state of wellness, you should be incorporating strength training, as well as some high-intensity cardio or circuit style training.

Strength training is important for building muscle and sustaining long-term fat loss, while HIIT (high-intensity interval training, also called circuit training or metabolic conditioning) is amazingly efficient for burning more fat in a shorter amount of time. Both forms of exercise can have you done and dusted in as little as 20 minutes every few days, and they don’t cause chronic stress in the same way that endurance cardio training can.

A typical week of exercise incorporating strength and HIIT might look like this:

Monday: Full body strength training (30–40 minutes)
Tues: Outdoor sprints (20 minutes)
Yoga in the evening
Wed: Walk (30-60 min, moderate intensity)
Thu: Full body strength training (30–40 minutes)
Walk or yoga in the evening
Fri: HIIT cycling sprints
Sat: Body weight circuit (20–30 minutes)
Walk in the evening
Sun: Yoga

This is by no means a strict prescription and I have found that different clients cope with very different volumes of training. Some manage to maintain fabulous results with just two strength sessions a week, while others enjoy a solid routine of three lots of strength and two lots of HIIT training a week. The best way to decide what is right for you is to test, measure and change something if you need to. Our lifestyles are very different, we are all at different stages of health, so it’s important to take that into consideration when creating a program.


Alicia Johnson and her business Unleash Yourself Health & Fitness Coaching are part of the Nourish Melbourne Community, and offer Nourish Melbourne Members their initial health and fitness consultation and two personal training sessions for just $47 (usually $141). Ongoing, Members also receive a 10% discount off their personal training sessions.

Click here to find out more about the Nourish Melbourne Membership - now with a month-by-month payment option.