It is no secret that the general population of western cultures is quite unhealthy. As a whole, we are eating more and exercising less. This means that the obesity rate is increasing, and along with it are all of the diseases and conditions that end up claiming lives. Those who live a sedentary lifestyle, that is those who rarely, if ever, exercise, are considered to be very unhealthy.
At the other end of the spectrum, however, are the individuals that exercise “too much.” They workout more than once per day, put strain on their heart and muscles, and can actually end up with the same negative health consequences as those who don’t workout at all. So how much exercise is too much?
Copenhagen City Heart Study on Exercise
In 2012, a study was published that looked at the effects of exercise on the body. The idea was to determine what is the optimal amount of exercise; how little is too little, and how much is too much.
In the study, the researchers determined that those who didn’t exercise at all were the most likely to die. In fact, 31% of those with a sedentary lifestyle died over a 12-year study. No big surprises there.
Controlling for other factors, like smoking, age, and pre-existing conditions, the researchers found that those who jogged less than once per week, and those who jogged two or three times per week were ca. 70% less likely to die compared to those who did nothing.
The most interesting discovery, however, was the health of those who jogged more than three times per week. When exercise increased beyond a moderate amount, the risk was only reduced by 29%.
The conclusion: no exercise is the least healthy; excessive exercise is better than none but worse than moderate amounts.
So How Much Should You Exercise?
The idea that jogging just 4 times per week is unhealthy concerns many physicians.
Other studies on the topic found that excessive exercise is less healthy, but it is statistically insignificant and shouldn’t be a concern.
The conclusion is to simply follow the US Government’s recommendation of exercise: 150-300 minutes, or going for a light jog 3 to 5 times, per week. That will keep you in that ideal range of health.