Woman asks whether her strenuous workout routine is too intense
Dear Doctor: I wonder, as a 67-year-old woman, whether my workout routine would be considered too strenuous? I walk six miles and use weight machines five days a week, and do an hour each of yoga, Zumba, cardio and stretching each week. This routine has helped me lose 27 pounds and get off of blood pressure medicine. Do you think I need to slow down?
Dear Reader: That’s quite an impressive regimen for age 67! As long as you’re in good health and enjoy what you’re doing, we see no reason that you can’t continue.
We have multiple goals when we exercise. On the physical side we want to increase muscle, decrease body fat, enhance agility, flexibility and coordination, and improve heart and lung function. (And for those of you lucky enough to be in peak physical shape, you exercise to maintain it.) However, thanks to the moreis-better mentality that can overtake any program of self-improvement, it is indeed possible to do too much. Gauging whether you fall into that category is a bit more complex than just deciding that a list of activities looks too long or daunting.
Our bodies and minds are not at all shy about letting us know when we’re overdoing it. On the physical side, signs that you may want to ease up include being unable to continue to perform at the same level, persistent aches or pains, fatigue during and after exercise, loss of appetite, repeated injuries and increased susceptibility to colds. Mental effects can include poor or disrupted sleep, loss of interest or motivation, as well as anxiety, irritability or depression.
Because we’re generally working to improve when we exercise, a certain amount of discomfort can be part of the process. But if a workout leaves you worn out to the point that you no longer feel the physical and emotional benefits or have lost the emotional afterglow that so often accompanies physical achievement, then it’s time to reassess.
If you begin to experience any of the symptoms or side effects we just discussed, either physical or mental, then you should consider making some changes. If you do decide to make changes to your routine, be sure to maintain that same balance.
Eve Glazier, M.D., MBA, is an internist and associate professor of medicine at UCLA Health. Elizabeth Ko, M.D., is an internist and assistant professor of medicine at UCLA Health. Send your questions to askthedoctors @mednet.ucla.edu, or write: Ask the Doctors, c/o Media Relations, UCLA Health, 924 Westwood Blvd., Suite 350, Los Angeles, CA, 90095. Owing to the volume of mail, personal replies cannot be provided.