Is There Such Thing as Too Much Exercise?

Retirement is an exciting time in someone’s life. There is still so much ahead to look forward to and all the free time in the world to explore the possibilities. On the other hand, is there such thing as too many choices?

The 19th-century Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard called the problem of having too many choices “the dizziness of freedom.”

The very fact that we have so many possibilities to choose from, Kierkegaard argued in his canonical book—canonical among philosophers, that is— “The Concept of Anxiety,” can trigger us to feel an immense amount of anxiety. Experiencing the boundlessness of our possibilities is dizzying.

If that sounds a little melodramatic, well, Kierkegaard could be a melodramatic thinker. Still, there is some truth to his idea. If you recently retired, then you may be familiar with the anxiety that comes when trying to figure out what to do with your free time.

But here’s a rule: when in doubt, do something good for you. Exercise has been proven to provide numerous physical and mental benefits. Incorporating more movement into your day is a great way to spend your free time, just be sure not to exercise too much. Here’s why:

How Much Should You Exercise?

Once you have chosen to exercise, however, you are presented with another choice that could lead you to feel a bit dizzy with freedom: how much should you exercise?

Though as little as 20 minutes of exercise per day can be good for retirees living at home or in retirement residencies like Chapel Hill retirement homes, twice that amount—40 minutes—tends to be better, and twice that can sometimes be best.

The question then becomes, where should you stop? What amount of exercise is ideal, and what amount is too much? Is there even such a thing as too much exercise? And, if so, how much is too much?

Yes, you can exercise too much. It’s called over-exercising, and its downsides can sometimes outweigh its benefits.

Levels of Exercise

First off, before you understand how much exercise is too much exercise, you will need to understand the different levels of exercise:

  • Light exercise
  • Moderate-intensity exercise
  • Vigorous-intensity exercise

Technically, you distinguish these three levels of exercise by what is called activity metabolic equivalents (MET). Some forms of exercise, like playing singles tennis, have a higher level of MET than, say, walking slowly. But in every case, it depends on the person. Someone who runs marathons will not experience as high MET when walking as someone who never exercises. And someone who is young and in great shape will not experience as high a MET as someone who is older and in shape.

For the sake of simplicity, then, let’s take an average retiree Joe, call him Joe. For Joe, light exercise means exercise including:

  • Walking
  • Fishing
  • Playing a musical instrument
  • Gardening
  • Vacuuming

Moderate-intensity exercise includes:

  • Doubles tennis
  • Brisk walking
  • Recreational badminton
  • Light effort bicycling

Vigorous-intensity exercise includes:

  • Singles tennis
  • Jogging
  • Weight training
  • Soccer
  • Basketball
  • Sprinting

How Much Exercise Is Too Much Exercise?

Again, what is too much exercise for one person is not too much exercise for another. It depends on age, fitness level, and other factors.

If you’re a retiree, the best way to tell whether you are exercising too much is to look for signs and symptoms. These may include:

So, if you are worried that you are exercising too much, access how you feel. How is your body responding to the movement you’ve done? The most important thing to remember is exercise shouldn’t feel like a punishment to your body. If you’re experiencing any of the above signs, it may be time to ease up and consult your doctor to ensure you’re protecting your body from any physical harm.

Taking care of your body each and every day is the best way to ensure you live a long, fulfilling life.

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