Excessive Exercise

Evaluating Risk Factors: Overtraining

Evaluating your likely current (and near future) state of health means taking into account the risk factors — such as excessive exercise — that affect you.   Our medical diagnosis tool, The Analyst™, identifies major risk factors by asking the right questions.

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In the Lifestyle section of the questionnaire, The Analyst™ will ask the following question about excessive exercise:
Excessive exercise. Would friends say that you exercise compulsively, or that you train too much?
Possible responses:
→ No / don't know
→ Some do
→ Yes, definitely

The Diagnostic Process

Based on your response to this question, which may indicate overtraining, The Analyst™ will use differential diagnosis to consider possibilities such as:
Anorexia / Starvation Tendency

Compulsive exercising is a symptom of anorexia.

The Effects Of Overtraining

The Effects Of Overtraining also suggests the following possibilities:

Antioxidant Requirement

During prolonged, intense exercise the body burns sugar and fat for fuel which creates free radicals as a byproduct.  Free radicals deplete the body's supply of antioxidants, which increases risk of developing various disease conditions.


Endurance sports such as triathlons, ultramarathon running and professional cycling have been associated with as much as a five-fold increase in the prevalence of atrial fibrillation (abnormal heart rhythms).  People who are super-fit are more likely to need pacemakers in old age because exercise causes changes in the body that can disrupt electrical pulses in the heart, causing abnormal heart rhythms.

Coronary Disease / Heart Attack

A review of research evidence by US physicians published in the medical journal Mayo Clinic Proceedings in June of 2012 suggests that excess exercise (for example intensive training schedules or extreme endurance competitions) can cause dangerous long-term damage to the heart.  According to this review, the safe upper limit for heart health is a maximum of one hour of strenuous exercise a day, after which we reach a point of diminishing returns.

Since then, several studies have confirmed that the health benefits of exercise diminish for those who exercise excessively, for example among people who run more than 20 miles (32km) a week, more than six days a week, or faster than eight miles per hour (13kph).

During prolonged, intense exercise the body burns sugar and fat for fuel which creates free radicals as a byproduct.  Free radicals bind with cholesterol to create plaque buildup in the arteries which increases risk of developing heart disease.

Weakened Immune System

High performance athletes have chronically lowered immune systems.  The high level of training leaves their immune systems frequently depressed so that, for example, if a group of athletes is training together, a flu bug will rapidly make its way around.  It is said that, in immunological terms, high-performance athletes are some of the least healthy people around.


Many young female athletes in training experience absent menstrual cycles due to low body fat content.  Exercising women with regular menstrual cycles and amenorrheic women who do not exercise excessively demonstrate a clear diurnal rhythm of leptin levels.  Exercising women with amenorrhea lose this normal rhythm, which raises the possibility that this cycle is important for the maintenance of reproductive function.  Leptin levels normally rise during the afternoon and reach a peak in the early hours of the morning, then decline towards dawn.

For some women, simply explaining the need for adequate calorific intake to match energy expenditure results in increased intake and/or reduced exercise, and their menses resume.  For those women in whom no other cause of amenorrhea can be found, but who are unable or unwilling to either increase food intake or decrease the amount of exercise, estrogen replacement therapy is strongly indicated.  Appropriate therapy consists of any estrogen replacement regimen that includes endometrial protection.

Low Melatonin Level

Exercise impairs the production of melatonin and exercising in the evening decreases melatonin for up to 3 hours afterwards.

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