Seed | Eating Disorder Support Service

Make a donation using Virgin Money Giving

helping people not the eating disorder

Advice Line (01482) 718130


Healthy vs Unhealthy Exercise

25th March 2019

When we hear the word ‘exercise,’ we naturally think of health. There’s a good reason for this, of course; exercise has a great number of mental and physical benefits. However, just like all good things, it’s possible to take exercise to extremes. When exercise is taken too far, it stops being healthy and can become damaging. If you’re unsure whether you or a loved one have taken an exercise habit too far, read the list below and see if anything strikes you as familiar.

Healthy exercise leaves you tired; unhealthy exercise leaves you exhausted

A good exercise session should leave you feeling pleasantly tired. Your muscles might feel sore, and depending on the exercise, your heart might be beating hard afterwards. Exercising until you feel tired is a good sign that you’ve reached your natural limit. It’s also completely normal to want to push yourself from time to time by working harder than usual; that’s an important way to improve as an athlete. If, on the other hand, you regularly exercise until you physically can’t go any farther, you may be causing your body more harm than good. Working your body as hard as you possibly can over long, regular intervals can result in a variety of health problems, from dehydration and fatigue to tendonitis and chronic pain. If your exercise routine regularly leaves you exhausted and in pain, it might be time to slow down a little.

Healthy exercise takes breaks; unhealthy exercise is nonstop

This point is similar to the one listed above, but for different reasons. When you exercise, you are causing wear and tear to your muscles. Taking a day to rest after a good workout is crucial because it allows your body to heal and rebuild from the strain of the exercise. If you exercise the same muscles day after day, they never have a chance to heal and become stronger. Some experts have stated that rest days are just as important to your exercise routine as the days that you actually exercise. So while it might make sense at face value that working out every day is the healthiest choice you can make, it’s not necessarily true. Remember that your body needs time to rest, and make your workout routines healthier by incorporating rest days. You never need to feel guilty for these rest days, either. They’re an essential part of exercise!

Healthy exercise is a reward; unhealthy exercise is a punishment

Ideally, exercise should be enjoyable. While we all struggle with a lack of motivation from time to time, exercise should generally mean taking some positive time for ourselves, moving our bodies the way we want to, and getting some endorphins flowing. If you exercise because you like the way it feels, that’s a good sign. Exercise should never be a way to punish yourself. If your body isn’t the way you want it to be, the best way to change isn’t through painful exercise done to spite yourself, but through healthy self-care and self-improvement.

Similarly, if you are struggling with depression or other negative feelings, exercise can be a great way to work through them unless they are causing you to deliberately hurt yourself with excessive exercise. If you’re struggling with guilty feelings and aren’t sure how to forgive yourself, there are many other resources available to you that can help much more than over exercising ever could. Remember that your motivations for exercising should be positive, and reach out to a loved one if you feel that they are not.

Like everything in life, exercise is all about moderation. If you are exercising a healthy amount, with enough breaks and the right motivations, you’re probably doing something right. If you feel as though your exercise routine is not as healthy as it could be, don’t beat yourself up. Make gradual changes towards a healthier regimen and see how it feels. More likely than not, your mind and body will thank you.

Paisley Hansen, Freelance Writer and Expert in Health and Self-care