From an early age and from a medical perspective, we are advised on the importance of exercising being a key component to staying healthy. At the same time, exercising is a matter of personal preferences.
This weekend on Sunday, May 22, Sanfine Hospital will host TRY IT! – International Fitness Day. This event is set up as a taster of five different workouts and a good chance to find an exercise that is a personal best fit. The event will be offering Nia, Yoga, Crossfit, JindaFit®, and Heyrobics, each for 20-minutes.
Exercising like all good things has to be done in moderation and you run the risk of over exercising that can lead to serious injuries or exercise addiction.
Before heading off to try any exercise, it’s good practice to research about the basics. We asked occupational therapist and yoga trainer, Jingyi Liu, to expand upon exercising and the perils of over exercising.
Liu is a Beijing native with 12 years experience as a yoga trainer and an occupational therapist, who works at Sanfine Hospital. She emphasizes enjoying yoga in a safe way to prevent sports injuries.
What is exercising?
Exercising has numerous definitions. Generally, exercising involves all kinds of physical activities with the aim of improving our health conditions. In medical terms, we divide exercises into four different types according to their specific functions, these are:
- Muscle strengthening and stretching, which includes all types of resistance exercises, like weight lifting and Pilates, and all kinds of stretching techniques, such as yoga and muscle-relaxing rollers.
- Aerobic exercises. This one is the most popular one, as it’s the most efficient way to burn calories. Such as medium speed running, bicycles, swimming, etc
- Dexterity training, which focus on coordination of whole body, accuracy and agility of mobility. Boxing, Judo, and Chi-na, tennis, and badminton are good choices for dexterity, although we do them typically for burning fat.
- Cardiac functional training, meaning the heart rate (HR) would approach 70% maximum HR. This type is often mixed with aerobic exercises, as all the exercises listed can improve cardiac function if the heart rate achieves the target. High Intensity Interval Training, and burpees are typical cariac functional training exercises.
Why is exercising necessary?
The most essential aspects of exercising are:
- Physical conditions: to remain in a right posture, to keep away from chronic or postural pain, to promote respiratory and cardiovascular system function, to stimulate digestive system, to better absorb food with less constipation, and to expel of some wastes by perspiring.
- Emotional conditions: To increase the levels of endorphins and other neurotransmitters that make people feel excited and refreshed, and to help concentration. A large number of experiments have been done to prove that people who do regular exercises have longer and more efficient attention with work or study, improving psychological resistance, which is essential to balance life and work/study/any other tedious tasks. Overall, this is to gain a better, healthier life style.
What is exercise addiction?
Exercise addiction is an unhealthy obsession with physical fitness and exercises. It’s often a result of body image disorder and eating disorder.
Several characteristics distinguish healthy regular exercise from exercise addiction:
- Maladaptive: instead of improving our life (physical/emotional conditions), exercise addiction can cause a lot of severe problems, such as injuries (joints, muscles, bones), and other physical damages (lungs, hearts, digestion), malnutrition (severe protein deficiency), etc.
- Persistent: Actually we all overexert ourselves occasionally, but we would rest for quite a long time to make sure no soreness, pain, or any other fatigue signs are left. While exercise addicts can do exercises for hours and hours, (some of them would add on weights continuously), regardless of injuries and fatigue. Furthermore, exercise addicts report withdrawal symptoms when they are not able to exercise, afterwards they may re-start at a high level of exercise.
Common signs of exercise addiction
- An increment in exercising frequency (hours, sometimes no break) that may be labeled as detrimental, or becomes harmful.
- A desire to experience excitement; exercise may be increased as threshold of the excitement state increases.
- Not participating in physical activity will cause dysfunction in one’s daily life.
- Severe withdrawal symptoms following exercise deprivation including anxiety, restlessness, depression, guilt, tension, discomfort, loss of appetite, sleeplessness, and headaches.
- Exercising through trauma and despite physical injuries.
For boys (teens especially), how does muscle dysmorphia play a role in over exercising?
Typically, muscle dysmorphia involves disordered fixation on gaining body mass, as by devoting an inordinate time and attention on routines, dietary regimens, and nutritional supplement.
From the definition, we can easily get some thoughts. A sore body needs a great amount of protein supplement (internally and externally) to maintain and form muscles during and post exercises, we may need extra nutritional supplement if the quantity of exercises is great. For young boys, whose rate of metabolism and protein requirement are much higher than the adult average level, they easily get muscle dysmorphia due to over exercising.
In addition, most young boys might not get a scientific guide on how to establish a correct and gradual exercise routine. A high frequency routine will inhibit muscle fibers formation, which definitely worsens muscle dysmorphia, the lack of sufficient muscle support and protection will contribute to skeleton system injuries and spinal morphological changes.
What are the ways to help with exercise addiction?
As exercise addiction often exists with eating disorder and body image disorder, medications might treat these disorders to reduce addictive signs. Exercise addicts should avoid drugs, alcohol, caffeine, and other substances that can cause addiction (all of these addictions may worsen exercise addiction).
- Exposure and response prevention is the primary treatment of exercise addiction. An exercise addict should come to terms with the issue, then needs to stop exercising for a time in order to gain control of the desire to exercise. Self-control is developed during the prohibition period.
- Therapists can treat exercise addicts by instructing addicts to gradually go back to a healthy training routine. The addicts should obey the instruction strictly. Mental and physical dedication is required during treatment.
What are recommended healthy exercising levels?
Each person is different; it’s hard to give a standard criterion of exercise levels suitable to everyone. The most common phrase we may use would be listening to your body.