UPDATED: Mar 26, 2020
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January marks the time of the year when American gyms are full of folks working on their New Year’s resolutions. There isn’t an open treadmill in sight, and ‘your’ seat in spin class has been eagerly snatched up for the next month or so, much to your dismay. No big deal, you will just wait out the crowds as you always do, and things will be back to normal by February, as all of the newbie exercisers give up and go home.
But what if they don’t go home? What if they develop an exercise addiction, start using steroids, or develop a heart condition due to excessive exercise? Is there such a thing as being ‘too fit?’ Below we will examine three possible complications from over-exercising, and how to recognize if you have a problem.
Exercise addiction stems from a psychiatric disorder such as obsessive-compulsive disorder, or bulimia and anorexia nervosa. It can, however, develop in people without a pre-existing psychiatric condition. An unsuspecting gym-rat could be chasing the elusive runner’s high more often than not, or an exercise-related weight loss could leave a person feeling so good that it spirals into an obsession.
Here are some signs of exercise addiction to watch out for:
- Working out alone, away from other people
- Following the same rigid exercise pattern
- Exercising for more than 2 hours per day, repeatedly
- Fixation on weight loss or calories burned
- Exercising when sick or injured
- Exercising to the point of pain and beyond
- Skipping work, school or social plans for workouts
Anabolic Steroid Use
Men more often than women are at risk of developing a steroid habit. Use of steroids could stem from a disorder called muscle dysmorphia, in which men become fixated on building muscles because they have a fear of being scrawny or continuously see themselves as being scrawny even when they are not.
The disorder itself is very dangerous; however anabolic steroid use is especially scary. Steroid side effects include:
- Liver damage
- Fluid retention
- High blood pressure
- Increased LDL cholesterol
- Shrinking testicles
- Breast development
Now and then you hear about a marathon runner, triathlete or professional athlete who had a heart attack during an athletic event. How is that possible, considering what fantastic shape a person must be in to compete in such endeavors?
As it turns out, most of the stories of athletes who have died were as a result of a pre-existing heart defect called hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy is a thickening of the heart muscle which makes it difficult for the heart to pump blood. This can cause ventricular fibrillation, which is an abnormal heart rhythm in which the heart beats so fast it may no longer be able to pump blood. Sometimes sudden death will result from this condition.
The concern with cardiac-related sudden death in athletes is that often the victim is completely unaware they have a heart condition until it is too late.
Warning signs of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy include:
- Chest pain
- Fainting, especially during exercise
- Heart failure (in some)
- High blood pressure
- Feeling light-headed, especially during or after exercise
- Heart palpitations
- Shortness of breath, standing or lying down
Some athletes may develop athlete’s heart syndrome, a condition that can sometimes be mistaken for hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. The benign response to prolonged cardiovascular training significantly increases mass and wall thickness in the hearts of athletes, which is what causes the confusion. The safest thing to do is visit your doctor for a physical before embarking upon an exercise regimen.
As long as you don’t overdo it, the benefits of regular exercise are undeniable. This is particularly the case when it comes to saving money on your term life insurance policy. An active lifestyle means lower monthly premiums. Let your term life insurance broker know if you have existing health conditions and they will assist you in choosing the best life insurance company for you.