The Dark Side of Intense Exercise – Is Your Gym HIIT Killing Y0U ?

Are you one of the millions who have hopped on the fitness train in the last year? Did you start doing CrossFit, Pilates, yoga, weights, cardio, Kick boxing, or HIIT workouts? High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is the talk of the town these days. These short and intense workouts can be done anywhere, anytime, and the results are impressive. But are they good for your body? How much intense exercise is too much? Can too much exercise be deadly?

Dark Side of Intense Exercise - Podcast

The Benefits of Regular Exercise

Regular exercise is known to have numerous benefits, including controlling our weight, preventing strokes, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, depression, anxiety, several types of cancers, and arthritis. It also improves mood, boosts energy, and helps us sleep better. In short, working out helps our mental and physical health.

The Dark Side of Intense Exercise

But when overdone, workout can be deadly. Exercising excessively can lead to loss of menstruation in women and eating disorders. It also causes osteoporosis or the loss of bone minerals, known as the female athlete Triad. In men, intense exercise can lead to decreased libido, raise the risk of fractures, affect our heart, tendons, ligaments, and damage our immune system.

Moreover, during the lockdown, many of us signed up for online fitness classes to build our immunity and stay fit. We thought that working out more than usual would help us fight Covid or any other virus that comes our way. However, science has a different take on this. It talks about a 72-hour open window, where our immunity is impaired for up to 72 hours after intense exercise, making it easier for bacteria and viruses to enter our bodies and infect us.


What Is Intense Exercise?

What qualifies as an intense exercise depends on various factors like age, gender, and health conditions. To determine the maximum heart rate, we need to subtract our age from 220. For example, if you’re 30 years old, your maximum heart rate is 190 BPM or beats per minute. On average, our resting heart rate is 60 to 100 beats per minute.

To become physically fit, aim for exercising at 60 to 80 percent of your maximum heart rate. But if you have health problems like diabetes, aim for 50% of your maximum heart rate when working out. Exercising at 70 to 85 percent qualifies as vigorous. Intense exercise is exercising at 80 to 95 percent of your maximum heart rate, and it becomes dangerous when done for a long time.

The Risks of Intense Exercise

A study on recreational hockey players found that those who continuously exceeded their maximum heart rates while playing had an increased risk of cardiac events. Several athletes, including Danish footballer Christian Eriksen, have collapsed on the pitch despite eating right, working out, and staying fit.

While exercising is essential, our bodies have limits to endurance, and those limits must be respected; otherwise, the body gives way. Doctors advise against HIIT unless you’re a professional athlete. Researchers in Germany found that physically inactive participants were twice as likely to have a heart attack or stroke. However, those who worked out four times a week were also twice as likely to die of a heart attack or stroke.


A study carried out on marathon runners found that even after finishing extreme running events, their blood samples had biomarkers associated with heart damage. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends adults get five hours of moderate exercise a week and work all major muscle groups on two or more days.

People who train intensely for more than an hour every day often develop an athlete’s heart, which potentially makes them more vulnerable to heart-related problems, including heart attacks, cardiac arrests, and strokes. High-intensity workouts also lead to various gastrointestinal disorders like inflammatory bowel disease and irritable bowel syndrome.

PT or Any Tom, Dick, and Harry


In today’s world, it is easy to find a personal trainer or fitness coach with just a quick online search. However, it is important to note that not all trainers are created equal. Many of our so-called fitness coaches are not certified. In most parts of the world, there is no restriction on using the title of personal trainer or fitness coach. Anyone can call himself or herself that. Any Tom, Dick, and Harry is allowed to prescribe a workout regime, a diet, supplements.

Every second person on the internet today is a fitness influencer. It is high time to keep in mind tha, a personal transformation or X number of hours spent in the gym does not substitute a course and certification on health and fitness. Think about it, will you take a diabetes medicine prescribed by a layman just because he or she is also diabetic? Our bodies are different, and so are their problems and needs. What works for me may be disastrous for you. You need a qualified trainer to tell that difference.

Certification and Credentials Matter

Personal transformations and spending hours in the gym do not automatically qualify someone to be a personal trainer. A certification course is necessary to understand the basics of health and fitness, and to ensure that a trainer has the knowledge and skills to help clients in a safe and effective manner. It is crucial to check your trainer’s certification and credentials before hiring them. This will ensure that you receive advice and training from someone with the necessary knowledge and experience to help you achieve your goals while minimizing the risk of injury.

Understanding Holistic Fitness Approaches

Many trainers lack the understanding of how to approach fitness holistically. For instance, it is important to know that men and women have different physical needs. Women may require different exercises to protect their lower back as their pelvis tends to tilt more than a man’s. These are just some of the basics that trainers should understand to provide comprehensive and safe training sessions. It is essential to hire a trainer that understands these nuances to help you achieve your goals in a safe and effective way.

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Avoiding Exercise Addiction


It is not uncommon to hear people talking about their exercise addiction with pride. However, exercise addiction is a serious issue that should not be taken lightly. People with exercise addiction often experience withdrawal symptoms and are unable to cut down on their workouts. Missing a workout can lead to anxiety and exhaustion. In the United States alone, at least one million people suffer from exercise addiction. This highlights the importance of moderation when it comes to working out.

How to approach regular Exercise ?

Now, All these doesn’t mean we should all stop working out. Exercise is still incredibly beneficial for our health and wellbeing. However, we must be mindful of the type, intensity, and duration of our workouts. We need to listen to our bodies and not push ourselves too hard. It’s crucial to find a balance that works for our individual needs and goals.

In addition to monitoring the intensity of our workouts, we can also incorporate other healthy habits to support our overall wellbeing. This includes getting enough rest and sleep, eating a balanced diet, staying hydrated, and managing stress levels. Taking care of our mental and emotional health is just as important as physical health, if not more.

When it comes to fitness, quality is more important than quantity. We don’t need to spend hours at the gym every day or do intense workouts to see results. Consistency is key, along with finding activities that we enjoy and that make us feel good. Walking, dancing, hiking, swimming, and cycling are all excellent forms of exercise that can be done at a moderate intensity and for longer durations without placing excessive stress on our bodies.


Regular Exercise But The Right Way

Exercise is crucial to maintaining a healthy body and mind. Regular exercise can help to improve your overall well-being and reduce the risk of various diseases. However, it is important to start slowly and consult with your doctor, especially if you are recovering from an illness such as the COVID19. Your doctor can advise you on the best course of action and what exercises are safe for you to engage in.

In conclusion, the world of fitness can be a complex and sometimes confusing landscape. While HIIT has gained popularity for its potential to deliver fast results, it is important to approach intense exercise with caution and mindfulness. By finding a qualified and certified fitness trainer who takes a holistic approach to your fitness journey, you can minimize the risk of injury and ensure safe and effective workouts. Remember to listen to your body, avoid exercise addiction, and engage in moderate exercise to support your physical and mental wellbeing. With the right approach, you can enjoy all the benefits of exercise without sacrificing your health.

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