THE BLOG

Less Is More: Is Too Much Exercise Bad for You?

04/12/2013 05:52 pm ET | Updated Jun 12, 2013

Exercise is essential to stay healthy, but when is too much not good for you?

In ancient times, legend has it that a runner named Philippides brought the news of victory from Marathon and told the magistrates in Athens, "Joy to you, we've won," and then he died. With his last breath he said, "Joy to you."

Clearly, Philippides exercised too much. Even in modern times, marathon runners or other athletes can die a sudden death either during or soon after they exercise. There are many reasons that athletes can die while exercising, but even for any of us we need to find an optimum amount of exercise when we work out or are actively engaged in sports. Too little exercise is not good, and too much is not good.

The amount of exercise that is best for you can change from day to day based on your sleep and your diet. So when your diet is healthy, you benefit more from exercise. How do you know when you do the optimal amount of exercise?

The United States Centers for Disease Control (CDC) advises a minimum of 2.5 hours a week of moderate intensity aerobic activity like brisk walking in divided "doses." The exercise can be performed in blocks as short as 10 minutes. The CDC also recommends muscle strengthening exercises at least twice a week.

Brief high-intensity training or interval training may provide even better results for your overall fitness and weight management. This interval high intensity training may not only change your metabolism favorably but may lead to hormonal changes that help to slow down the aging process. So here, "less" (shorter high intensity training) may be "more." Individuals react differently, and we are on the verge of being able to measure how much exercise is optimal. This is where new technology comes in.

We can use wearable devices to measure some of our vital signs, such as pulse rate and activity. Newer devices measure the function of the circulatory system as a measure of fitness. Such information can help you determine your ideal workout regimen. Not too much and not too little. Let's go back to ancient Greece. Hippocrates said to physicians: "First, thou shalt do no harm." This wisdom can also be applied to exercise and diet.

Let's exercise and do it well! That is a major ingredient in maintaining a healthy body and a healthy soul.