Too Much Exercise is More Harmful Than None
If you’re like me, you probably have a love-hate relationship with exercise. You know your body needs it, you know you feel better afterward and you know it’s a key part of a healthy lifestyle that can impact you far into the future. But, you don’t always do it.
I want to share what has helped me include more movement in my life, which is a little different from having a goal of EXERCISING!!! (the word even exhausts me in my mind)
When I was approaching health from a weight/calorie standpoint, I exercised twice a day and made sure I was completely drained at the end to squeeze every last calorie out of my workout. It was a form self-induced mental and emotional abuse.
But, it’s also PHYSICAL ABUSE…
There have been many studies showing that people who exercise intensely for too long and too frequently are LESS healthy than sedentary people (I’m looking at you, runners) because over-exercising puts too much strain on the body and creates all kinds of cellular damage. This increases aging and actually shortens life.
What I’m saying is that someone who runs a half-marathon or full marathon or any other long-duration intense exercise, is actually harming themselves JUST AS MUCH as than someone who is just sitting. (1)
Exercise and too much of it can be problematic and I think you’re more likely to over-exercise if you look at exercise the wrong way – as something that you need to do to burn calories. And if some is good then more must be better.
But here are the major downsides of the “more is better” approach:
- Catabolism – tissue breakdown and excess cortisol (a stress hormone), which leads to chronic disease.
- Microscopic tears in muscle fibers that may have trouble healing if one continues to over-exercise, which may increase the risk of injuries.
- A weakened immune system.
- High levels of oxidative stress and damage to DNA – prolonged intense exercise causes excessive oxidative stress, which basically burns through the antioxidants in your system and predisposes you to problems.
- Insomnia and sleep problems.
Frankly, I had such a poor relationship with exercise in my 20s that at one point I stopped altogether, which also isn’t ideal.
It wasn’t until I looked at exercise as “movement” and learned about the benefits of moving my body from a functional health perspective that I became more sane, balanced and consistent in how I treated my body. It’s easy to enjoy the benefits of exercise without killing yourself.
The #1 Reason To Exercise – Turn on the Washer
Exercise serves a purpose much deeper than the superficial reasons that we usually have for doing it.
Calorie burn is not the reason we need to exercise. You can burn a lot of calories being emotionally stressed. Doesn’t make that healthy.
And as I said, you could burn a ridiculous amount of calories running 6 miles 5 days a week, but over time it will do more harm than good.
The point of exercising is to move lymphatic fluid (immune system fluid) around the body.
Let me explain.
Your heart pumps blood. Blood (1) nourishes cells with oxygen and nutrients and (2) helps transport waste away.
And where does much of the waste go? Your lymphatic system.
You may never have heard of it, but you have twice as much lymphatic fluid as you have blood!
Your lymph is like a sewage system for the body and is part of your immune system.
But, lymphatic fluid doesn’t have a special organ to help pump it like the blood has the heart.
Movement is what pumps lymphatic fluid around and is the #1 reason why we need to move our bodies.
Exercise is like doing laundry.
Consider trying to wash clothes without agitating them. If you just dump water, clothes and detergent into a big bin, but don’t turn the machine on to spin and push the clothes around, nothing gets clean.
Your body can’t clean itself properly without you helping it by pushing lymphatic fluid around.
So, when we’re too sedentary and don’t feel as well, it’s not because you haven’t burned calories (please strike that phrase from your vocabulary!).
We don’t feel good when we’re inactive because we haven’t moved our fluids around.
During exercise, your heart pumps even more blood to cells and tissues within the body and brain and allows for more waste to be taken away. The lymph system then does it’s job to process and carry away what doesn’t belong. This makes us feel better and stay healthy.
My motivation to move my body comes from the knowledge that things go wrong when you don’t move lymph.
Personally, I’m quite motivated by thinking about the negative aspect. So, I start to compile a list of all the things that could go wrong if I don’t help my body pump lymphatic fluid:
- I won’t be able to detoxify properly.
- My lungs won’t work as well.
- My digestion will suffer.
- I’ll become more constipated.
- My brain won’t get enough oxygen and I won’t be as clear-headed.
- I won’t be able to process sugar as well.
- I won’t be able to sleep as well.
- My skin won’t look as good.
- I will get more headaches.
- My mood won’t be as positive.
- My immune system won’t be as robust.
- The metabolic garbage in my body won’t get taken out.
(And the list goes on)…
This is how you become sick, develop diseases and conditions.
It’s not because you didn’t burn calories, it’s because you didn’t push blood and lymph around.
So, if you’re looking for a little motivation to exercise, try looking at it from the standpoint of supporting your body’s ability to clean and nourish itself.
Best Ways to Move Lymph and Support Healthy Body Function
Your lymphatic system can be targeted without overdoing it and with activities that are very relaxing and restorative. Here are examples:
- 20-min short bursts of intense exercise (you can exercise intensely, but keep it short!)
- Jumping rope (and just plain jumping)
- Jumping on a trampoline
- Inversions – this is when your heart has to pump blood in the opposite direction that normal. This happens when you bend forward at the waist and try to touch your toes. Here are other examples.
- Dry brushing – read about it here
- Lying on your back while your legs are raised against a wall – here’s what it looks like
As you can see, running, cross-fit and boot camp aren’t on the list because they’re not required for health. Just move your body. Even if it’s for 5 minutes at a time a few times per day.
No need to give up your favorite exercise, just add in these lymph moving routines into your regimen and you’ll be doing your body a huge favor.
It’s about health and balance, not abuse and the false idea that the health benefits of exercise come from calorie burn.
The health benefits of exercise come from turning on the washer. Even a short cycle will do!
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