Is Exercise Bad for Your Heart? How to Know if You’re Working Out Too Much

Exercise is good for you, whether you like it or not. But it’s not so good for you when you’re spending too much time at the gym.

When it comes to heart health, exercise is a great way to lower blood pressure, maintain a healthy weight, and decrease overall heart disease risk. Only if you’re being smart about it, though.

How much exercise is too much — and how do you know if you’re pushing yourself too hard? How does exercise relate to heart health — and how do you keep your workouts safe? Here’s what experts know so far.

Exercise benefits you may have forgotten about

Gym

Gym | Nd3000/iStock/Getty Images

You know exercise can probably help you lose weight, prompt you to sleep better, and make you feel more energized through the day. Working out on a regular basis can also:

  • Decrease your cancer risk
  • Reduce your risk of diabetes
  • Make your bones and muscles stronger
  • Improve your mental health
  • Help you live longer.

However, these benefits don’t always apply to people who exercise too much. People who consistently overdo it often experience fatigue, mental exhaustion, and sleep problems. Working out too much can also increase your risk of muscle tears, stress fractures, broken bones, and even heart problems.

Is exercise bad for your heart?

Not usually — especially in moderate amounts. In fact, exercise is one of the best ways you can strengthen your heart and decrease your overall disease risk.

It’s when you exercise more than you should — possibly because you believe it will increase the benefits to your health, even though it won’t — that your heart starts to suffer.

One long-term study found that people who exercised above general recommendations (more than would be considered safe) were more likely to develop a dangerous type of heart disease.

Your heart is a muscle, and works hard to do its job. When you consistently overwork it without allowing it to rest, it gets tired. A tired heart can’t do its job as efficiently, and you risk damaging the muscle — and endangering your life.

The problem, however, is that even though working out too much can harm your heart, so can physical inactivity.

People who don’t exercise are much more likely to develop heart problems than people who work out regularly — without overdoing it. So how do you find that balance — working out “enough” without exercising too much? Thankfully, there are guidelines to help you figure out what works best.

How much exercise should you do per week?

Butterfly stretch

Butterfly stretch | iStock.com/Wavebreakmedia

Experts recommend that adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate and/or vigorous physical activity each week at a¬†minimum. You can do a little bit more than that, but working out for 30 minutes at a time, five days a week, is really all you need to keep your heart — and the rest of your body — healthy.

It’s also recommended that you vary your workouts and incorporate both cardio and strength training into your weekly exercise routine. This ensures your¬†whole body benefits from exercise while you continue to burn calories, build muscle, and get stronger inside and out.

  • Vigorous activities include cycling, running, swimming, and sports.
  • Moderate activities include gardening, housework (cleaning, vacuuming, etc.), and home exercises.

Like following a healthy diet — more servings of healthy food won’t necessarily make you healthier — more exercise is not always better. If you’re concerned about your heart health, exercise often — but not for hours at a time. Put in the effort, but don’t take it too far.