Cardio exercise is amazing for our bodies. Running, cycling, and swimming help us build endurance and give us a nice boost in our days. Cardio exercise prevents chronic disease while improving our heart health. However, like anything else, there can be too much of a good thing. Cardiovascular exercise puts stress on our hearts. A moderate amount helps strengthen our heart muscle, but too much cardio can actually weaken it. If you’re worried you’ve been hitting the gym a little too hard, read on for 10 signs that you need to cool it on the cardio.
Wait, I thought cardio was good for me
It’s not the actual exercise that is the problem, so much as the amount of it. You’d be hard-pressed to find a physician or healthcare provider who does not recommend some cardio exercise. Our bodies are designed to move, and it’s important to stay active. Physical exercise has actually been found to be just as, if not more, effective as medication for some chronic conditions. Cardio exercise has been shown to prevent heart disease, high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes, and even depression. People who exercise regularly live an average of seven years longer than their sedentary friends!
The problems come when you’re constantly doing cardio and never giving your hot bod a chance to rest and recover.
You’re always sore
Like any exercise, doing too much cardio can lead to injuries. These may be major overuse injuries or more minor ones. Often we try to just push past a little soreness, but any pain should be addressed right away.
“If you are dealing with chronically achy or creaky joints, then your body might be asking for a change of pace,” Dave Smith told the Huffington Post. “Chronic joint soreness develops gradually so it can be easy to overlook. You might not suddenly notice a drastic change in how your body feels, but cardio overload may be taking a toll on your joints without you realizing it.” Pay attention to how you feel after your run. Sore knees? Make sure to take a rest day or hit a yoga class instead.
The more cardio you do, the more you’ll probably want to push through the pain and keep going. No matter how fit you are, it’s important to pay attention to pain. “Sometimes you need to back off and take it easy in order to keep making progress,” John Gaglione, a strength coach, fitness expert, and founder of GaglioneStrength, told Shape. “The more fit and the stronger you become, the more recovery you need.”
You can’t sleep
If you’ve ever talked with your doctor about problems sleeping, the first thing she probably recommended was exercise. Moderate physical activity during the day can prevent or even cure insomnia. We have to move our bodies throughout the day to stay healthy and sleep well.
However, new research has shown that too much exercise can lead to problems sleeping. Turns out that over-exercising can increase stress hormones like cortisol. Come bedtime, those stress hormones can keep you up tossing and turning. If you’ve been staring at the clock all night, think about cutting back on your gym time and see what happens.
You’re not losing fat
Many of us start increasing our cardio when we feel like we need to shed a few pounds. If you’ve been running everyday and are still wondering where your beach body is, it may be time to put away the running shoes. Cardio exercise can help our muscles burn fat during the workout, but our metabolisms quickly go back to normal.
The other issue is that chronically doing too much cardio can lead to actually losing muscle. Fitness and weight-loss coach Dave Smith told the Huffington Post that because cardio is not the most effective fat-blasting workout, you’ll have to keep doing more and more if you want to see weight loss. However, as you do more cardio, your body could lose muscle mass, which leads to a slower metabolism. “If your body loses even the slightest bit of muscle, your resting metabolic rate (i.e. how many calories you burn when you’re NOT exercising) dips even further,” he explained. “Your body will begin to shed fat even more slowly… unless you do even more cardio.” If you’ve been stuck in this exercise cycle, it’s time to shake things up and step away from the treadmill.