At one point or another, you’ve probably heard the phrase: “exercise is medicine”.
When we think of medicine, it’s important that we take the correct dosage. For instance, if we take too much or too little blood pressure medication, the consequences to our health can be devastating.
The same is true for exercise. If we don’t accumulate enough exercise each week, we are at risk of developing a number of diseases.
On the other hand, if we exercise too much each week, we are also at risk for certain health problems.
The volume of exercise is an especially important consideration when it comes to two main types of workouts:
- High-intensity training,
- Ultra-endurance training.
In this article, we will provide an overview of high-intensity exercise and demonstrate how completing too many of these workouts in a short time period can have a detrimental effect on one’s health.
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High-Intensity Interval Training
When it comes to exercise, an important consideration is the intensity level at which the workout is performed. Generally, cardiovascular exercise can be considered low-intensity, moderate-intensity, or high-intensity.
There are a few general cut-off points that can be used to measure intensity levels. However, there isn’t widespread agreement in the fitness community as to what is considered “high-intensity” training.
The most common way of incorporating high-intensity training into a routine is a workout plan known as HIIT or High-Intensity Interval Training.
HIIT training generally consists of participants working out at maximal (or near maximal) intensity for a short period. Then, the exerciser recovers for a longer period by working out at a lower intensity.
For instance, a person may ride an exercise bike for 15 seconds at a heart rate level that is 80% of their max heart rate. Then he may ride for 30 seconds at 50% of his max heart rate. From there, he will repeat this alternating pattern for 5 rounds.
In small doses, HIIT workouts are great for health and fitness. However, when a person completes too much HIIT exercise, he puts himself at risk for some serious health conditions.
HIIT training can cause some heart issues. However, so can long-duration endurance workouts.
Many marathon runners, long-distance skiers, and other endurance athletes experience heart arrhythmias.
There is some speculation that this may be due to low heart rate variability, but the exact reason why these issues develop is unclear.
For most people, exercise is unlikely to cause heart issues. These problems develop in athletes who are pushing their bodies to the limit every day, for many years on end.
The Right Amount of High-Intensity and Endurance Exercise
Performing excessive high-intensity exercise can predispose a person to heart attacks, arrhythmias, and a variety of other cardiovascular conditions.
On the other hand, only performing very low-intensity exercise may be insufficient for achieving optimal wellness.
Therefore, as with anything in life, it’s important to find a happy medium.
Depending on your individual needs, you may find that you do better with only moderate-intensity exercise.
Alternatively, you may find that you feel best when you mix together high-intensity and low-intensity workouts.
An example of a weekly exercise plan incorporating high-intensity and low-intensity exercise that could work for the average person is provided below.
- Monday and Friday: 20-minute HIIT workout on an exercise bike.
- Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Saturday: Low-to-moderate intensity walk outside.
- Sunday: Rest.
Combine this aerobic exercise plan with some resistance and flexibility training, and you’ve got all the ingredients needed for a perfect workout!
Risks and Benefits
There are a few documented risks correlated with exercise. These risks are primarily associated with the cardiovascular system. The issues in question are more frequently encountered when one regularly participates in high volumes of very intense exercise.
However, for almost everyone, the benefits of exercise far outweigh the risks. Exercise serves to improve all of the following.
- Mental health.
- Joint integrity.
- Heart function.
- Brain health.
- Muscle strength and endurance.
- And many other areas of health and wellness.
Therefore, you should certainly take steps to ensure that you exercise safely.
That being said, you shouldn’t avoid exercise in order to avoid suffering from one of the rare cardiovascular complications that can occur as a result of working out.
If you’re truly worried about the complications that can come from HIIT exercise, you can always stick to the common exercise recommendations for good health.
Specifically, many health groups recommend that everyone accumulate 150 total minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week.
By completing this volume of exercise on a weekly basis, you can be protected from the major health consequences that come from sedentary behavior.