How much exercise is too much?

I am asked this every now and then by people my age (50+) because as we get older, it gets harder to maintain a high level of strenuous physical activity. I have found this to be true, but I also didn’t exercise for a 20 year stretch. However, I know some people who maintained a daily exercise regimen well into their 80’s (my grandmother swam daily in the Atlantic Ocean year-round until she was 84).

My own experience has been that an every-other-day plan works best for keeping me relatively healthy and I’ve been able to keep away from injury and excessive soreness. The only time I’ve been injured in the past three years has been when I pushed it too hard or too fast. This is because as Clint Eastwood says in one of his movies, “A man’s got to know his limitations.” I know them; I need to abide by them.

How much exercise is too much depends on a lot of factors. Age, weight, overall health, fitness level, and goals. When you take all those things into consideration, you build a criteria for your limitations. Staying within them will generally be helpful while exceeding them won’t necessarily mean a bigger payoff. In my case, it led to a knee injury.

When I began my exercise journey, I started with push-ups. Nothing more. I did somewhere around 7 or 8 on my first day. I didn’t push myself until I couldn’t do anymore. I just stopped when my arms started feeling stress. Then, I took a day off and did the same thing the next day. That day, I did 10. Fast forward three months and I was up to 120 push-ups in two minutes. The crazy part is that I got to that level without any arm pain or soreness. It was a very natural progression. Could I have made it to 120 in two minutes in less than three months? Possibly. But the probability of injury was also greater, especially considering my age.

Don’t overdo exercise. Take it easy. There’s no reason to push yourself or to lift until you can’t lift anymore. Unless you are wanting to be a bodybuilder or Olympic weightlifter, there’s no reason to push to failure. Get that 30 minutes in every other day. If you can do it every day, more power to you. Just know your limitations and abide by them.

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