Consistency is key: Researchers warn weekend exercisers against pushing too hard over short periods of time
05/28/2019 // Vicki Batts // Views

When you think of a gym, do you think of sweaty people struggling to breathe? Despite what the media may tell you, exercise does not have to be synonymous with suffering. More importantly, it is indeed possible to overtrain or push yourself too hard -- especially if you're trying to follow in the footsteps of a famous athlete or fitness challenge. Popular television shows like The Biggest Loser have undoubtedly given many people the wrong impression about exercise and how much is needed for sustainable health goals.

Combined with a constant feed of news about top athletes and their fitness regimens, it's no wonder "average" people are straining to push themselves to the next level. While progress is indeed a token of improved fitness, pushing too hard can be risky. New research shows that pushing past your edge too far can even be harmful.

Don't take your weekend workout to extremes

Experts from Kings College London say that pushing yourself when you're at the brink may not be such a good idea after all. According to their research, amateur cyclists who push themselves to pedal as fast as elite athletes put their bodies under significant strain -- and not in a good way.

As the United Kingdom's Daily Mail reports, amateur cyclists shooting for pedaling speeds of 90 revolutions per minute are setting themselves up for muscles starved of oxygen, straining their circulatory and respiratory systems, and depleting their energy reserves.

Study leader Dr. Federico Formenti says that this kind of over-exertion is not an efficient way to exercise.


"The main message of this study is for amateur cyclists not to force themselves beyond what feels natural," Dr. Formenti explained.

‘In most cases the cyclists you see wobbling on the bicycle seat, spinning their legs very rapidly, have reached the level where they are just wasting energy. If they are competing in a road race, or going for a weekend cycle ride and doing this, they could well end up having to give up," he said.

According to the research team, it seems that elite cyclists are better equipped to pedal at very fast speeds than amateurs. Whether this is because of years of training or natural ability was not studied, but the experts say that taking a natural pace will suit the needs of the average cyclist just fine.

Exercise is important, but don't overdo it

The findings from Kings College London support previous suggestions that exercising too hard is detrimental to one's health. Many fitness experts agree that there is a difference between pushing yourself to succeed at your fitness goals, and pushing yourself to the point of injury.

Exercise is hard, especially if you're picking up a new physical activity. Whether you're riding a bike or lifting weights at the gym, it's going to be challenging at first. For many people, it can be hard to tell where the line between "challenge" and "trauma"  should be drawn. As fitness expert Sarah Kurchak contends, it is important for people to also learn to know their bodies. Being able to tell the difference between an elevated heart rate and chest pain, for example, is important -- otherwise you can end up pushing yourself way too hard.

Exercise is an important part of a healthy lifestyle, but making sure you have a healthy relationship with exercise is essential. Learn more about healthy living at

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