Working Out Too Much Can Lead to This Deadly Condition
Working out too much and pushing your body beyond its limit can do you more harm than good.
Working out too much and pushing your body beyond its limit can do you more harm than good.(Photo: iStock)

Working Out Too Much Can Lead to This Deadly Condition

‘Pain is gain’, goes the popular saying among fitness junkies. If it hurts, it’s working, right? Well, not really. Working out too much and pushing your body beyond its limit can do you more harm than good. It can also lead to death.

Yes, you read that right. If you’re exercising excessively to stay “fit”, ignoring the pain, it can lead to a rare condition called rhabdomyolysis, commonly called rhabdo. In this, overworked muscles start breaking down and release a harmful protein into the bloodstream.

Now, don’t get confused. Working out is not bad, it’s extremely beneficial for your health. But you don’t need to go full throttle in that strenuous spin class for longer than your body can take.

Too caught up to read? Listen to the story here:

A 17-year-old in the United States felt “super-duper sore” after 90 minutes of weightlifting. In another case, a woman, who exercises regularly, went to her first spin class and found the hour-long session difficult to power through, and ended up with sore and wobbly legs. Over the next two days, the pain worsened, her urine turned an unusual dark brown and she felt nauseated.

You don’t need to go full throttle in that strenuous spin class for longer than you can take.
You don’t need to go full throttle in that strenuous spin class for longer than you can take.
(Photo: iStock)
Both these cases were diagnosed with rhabdo, which can be life-threatening and is often caused by extreme exercise.

In addition, dehydration, laying motionless for a long time especially when intoxicated, getting electrocuted etc can also cause such muscle damage.

What Kind of Exercising Can Cause This?

Again, this does not mean that exercising is bad. It’s the way you’re exercising which is causing the problem.

So what is it that can cause rhabdo?

It can happen when you work out a lot without any warm up, or you’re doing a new exercise you’re not used to and you go too hard right from the start. It can sometimes result in this condition, when you ignore the pain and keep pushing.
Dr Amit Aggrawal, Consultant, Orthopaedics
(Photo: iStock)

The co-author of a study which outlines this phenomenon, Dr Alan Coffino says that people who work out regularly as well as those who don't exercise often can get rhabdo.

“Those who are fit typically get it if they push themselves too hard or if they try a new exercise that works a different muscle group,” explains Coffino. He adds that it’s important for people and trainers to realise that strenuous exercises have to be built up and it’s okay if you can’t go beyond a limit.

So, if you’re pushing too hard without being adequately trained, you’re traumatising your muscles.

How Can Rhabdomyolysis Be Deadly?

In this condition, when the muscle breaks down, it releases myoglobin, a protein that can poison the kidneys, into the bloodstream.

If the case isn’t too serious, the patient is just given fluids to rehydrate and released from the hospital after a few days of monitoring.

If it grows and becomes severe, it can shut down the kidneys, and the patient could end up on dialysis. And kidney failure can lead to overload of potassium in your body, which in turn can result in irregular heartbeat and death.

How Can You Avoid It?

Rhabdo can occur at any age and in both men and women. The key to avoiding it is simple – do not overdo it.

  • Be slow and gradual when beginning a new workout. Steadily increase the intensity.
  • Exercise in moderation, too much of anything is not good.
  • When going to an exercise class, you should tell the instructor if you are new, so that they can plan your work out accordingly.
  • Make sure to hydrate before, during and after exercising.
  • Avoid too much repetition. You should not exercise a particular body part repeatedly without rest.
  • Don’t push your body more than you can bear it. If it’s getting too much, tune out the ‘you-can-do-it’ motivations and communicate the same to your trainer.

Stay away from the ‘hop-till-you-drop’ mantra!

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