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Too Much Workout Can Affect Your Mental Health, According to Expert

Spending more time at home ― as we’ve all been doing for over a year and a half ― has certainly had some perks. More time with family, less time commuting and more time wearing pants with an elastic waistband. One shift not on this list? The number of body image issues that have materialized as a result of our changing lifestyles.

While exercise by its simplest definition is a healthy habit, it is possible to have too much of a good thing. Training too much can negatively affect your mental and physical health, and the signs you may additionally need to dial it again might not be so obvious.

Your brain on exercise

“Exercise is looked at as a good thing, and generally it is,” said Daniel Gallucci, a functional neurologist and co-founder of the brain health app Nuro . “But there is a dose dependency with it, as there is with almost everything in life. For example, consuming water is healthy, but not 10 liters of it a day.”

“For someone who has just started getting active, the pleasure centers in the brain are being rewarded as they work out,” he said. “This in turn makes that person want to keep exercising, and perhaps exercise longer or harder. But over time the brain gets used to that reward system and the amount of dopamine is reduced.”

It’s this drop in dopamine that may additionally spark overexercising, as the person is now trying to ramp up their activity level to feel that same reward, Gallucci noted.

“No matter what, eventually we become immune to the dopamine reward response,” he said. “What was an unexpected pleasure yesterday is now what we feel entitled to today. And it’s not going to be enough for tomorrow.”

The link between exercise and your mental health

First and foremost: Exercise is a benefit when practiced properly. It can reduce stress, improve sleep and overall improve your mental health. But making sure you have the right mental attitude before you do it is key to maintaining a healthy exercise balance.

“As someone starts an exercise program and then sees improvement, be it with their physical abilities or on the scale, they have a tendency to get competitive with themselves,” said Tyra Gardner, a psychotherapist based in Philadelphia.

“That drive you had to start exercising ends up impairing your mental health if you’re not careful,” she continued. “The constant need to feel like you must be the greatest version of yourself causes self-esteem issues and anxiety. The sense of acceptance becomes lost because you start to feel like you can’t accept who you are.”

Another compounding factor to this is social media. “If you’re looking at someone online who is doing the same workouts and exercises you are but has completely different results, that can additionally cause you to mentally spiral,” Gardner said. “Social media is only a glimpse of someone’s life, and chances are you’re not getting the full picture of what that person is doing. So, there is no reason to feel inadequate and that you have to constantly do more, more, more.”

Originally published: Huffington Post

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