Overtraining: Get the Right Amount of Exercise to Prevent Osteoporosis

Overtraining: Get the Right Amount of Exercise to Prevent Osteoporosis

Exercising with buddies makes it fun and helps get it done!
Exercising with buddies makes it fun and helps get it done!
Overtraining? You mean we can get too much exercise? Yes!

I often feel like a cheerleader for incorporating regular safe movement and exercise into your daily schedule to prevent fractures, osteoporosis and low bone density (osteopenia). Have fun with it! Move safely! Vary your routine! Make it social!

Sometimes, however, I need to suggest that a person back off of an exercise program that has grown too hard in frequency, duration, or intensity. It’s called overtraining. More is not always better. Rest and recovery time must be built into an exercise schedule. When we hear that exercise is helpful for bones, we might think that if a little bit is good, a lot more will be better. Not so. The goal is to build stronger muscles so that they can exert a stronger pull on your skeleton, giving it the stimulation to stay strong. Overtraining can reduce your muscle strength, which is not going to help your bones.

Knowing if you’re overtraining is a very personal call. The symptoms can be subtle–always being overly tired the day or two after a workout, not even wanting to go for a leisurely stroll around the block. If the overtraining has been going on for some time, that fatigue can last longer. Of course, when you're just beginning an exercise program or after a long hike, bike ride, or other longer-than-usual activity, it’s normal to experience some extra muscle soreness or fatigue.

Overtraining is different. Consistently exercising too hard can result in having a lower than optimal level of energy.

Some other symptoms of overtraining:

Losing strength and fitness

No motivation to move

Always having delayed onset muscle soreness from the same regular activity.

Menstrual irregularities

Feelings of irritability, even without muscle soreness or overt fatigue.

Getting more exercise by taking it outdoors!
Getting more exercise by taking it outdoors!
​Grumpiness is my red flag on Tuesdays and Fridays. Why? On Mondays and Thursdays I get more than enough exercise teaching two group strength training classes, as well as several private lessons. As much as I’d love to dive in there and exercise as hard as everyone else, I've learned that I need to modify my routine in order to keep from overtraining.

As each decade passes, I need to modify a little more. In my forties it was hardly an issue. In my fifties, things started to change. I’d always have my PE classes do a minute of jumping for their bones. After some time, however, I had to ask a student to lead the jumps because it was starting to hurt my knees. Humph! As much as I wanted to be invincible, I had to also learn humility and accept that too much exercise, especially the wrong kind for my age, was not helpful. Now, in my sixties, I watch how my body and emotions are responding to my workout schedule in order to reap the maximum benefits.


Have a day or two of rest incorporated into your exercise schedule. This doesn't mean bed rest, but lighter exercise, even a pleasant saunter around the park.

If you’re having symptoms of overtraining, go lighter in duration, intensity, and frequency. Don't go too long, too hard, or too often.

Vary the mode—have several activities in your exercise repertoire, not just one.

If you have a couple of harder resistance or strengthening workouts a week, schedule 48 to 72 hours between them. Vary your routine with light exercise such as a brisk walk after strength training days. If you’re going on a long hike or bike ride, don’t do strengthening exercises the day before.

caption id="attachment_2774" align="alignright" width="300"]Getting in a few back extensions while watching the tube and playing with my zombie dog, Tippy! Getting in a few back extensions while watching the tube and playing with my zombie dog, Tippy![/caption]

Make sure that you feel uplifted and energized after exercise. If it’s fatigue that you regularly feel after exercise, it could be overtraining or maybe a health issue. See your doctor to ask how much exercise is right for you. Get enough good nutrition and sleep. Growing older and chronic health conditions make it very important to pay attention to exercising at the optimal level for you. It’s always a work in progress.

You might find my recent post helpful on Osteoporosis Exercise Guidelines and Motivating Resources for New Year's Resolutions.

Exercise can add years to a good life. Balance is the key! What do you do to vary your exercise program?

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Comments (Scroll to the bottom to leave your comment)

  1. I think making it a point to go to bed earlier a few days a week, yes bed rest, would actually help in recovery. Just my opinion. So many people think they’re getting enough sleep when they’re not.

  2. I’m following your advice. I went for an hour cross-country on Saturday, and only 1/2 hour today. (gotta take advantage of the rare oportunity of snow!) I paid atention to when I felt my heart pumping when I paused, and quit while I still wanted more, figuring less duration, less intensity as you suggested. Looking forward to feeling fresh for Monday with a good night’s sleep!

  3. Sounds good, Sue! How do your legs and arms feel this morning? Cross-country skiing is such a wonderful full body activity, so also be aware of how your core feels–the abs and back.
    Keep track of how you feel today in strength training class. If you feel fresh going in, you could experiment with going a little longer on a Sunday ski, but maybe at a lower intensity, just like you did after a harder and longer day on Saturday. It’s a process of trial and error, keeping track of what works to build the optimal exercise program for YOU!
    I know, when the snow is good, you just have to get out there no matter what!

  4. I used to run 3 miles almost everyday and more on weekends, I couldn’t understand why I felt more tired, irritable and generally less fit as a result on many days, and I never thought of “overtraining” as being my problem. Now I do nothing and feel equally bad, so starting strength training is my first step to get back in the groove–inspired by Susie who doesn’t just talk but really walks the walk!!

  5. Thanks, Laura! Strength training is the perfect exercise to begin getting back in shape. Your strong muscles will help power your cardiovascular/aerobic activities, making them more fun and effective.

  6. Hello, I’ve been doing your strength training DVD and have been looking for your Band training DVD without success. Do you have one or do you recommend one. Since starting your Strength training DVD I find my abs are stronger my posture is better and I hope my bones r better. Thank you

  7. Thanks for your interest in my band workout, Lily. As much as I wanted to get it on video by now, my production dates have been delayed until the summer. I apologize for the delay. I’m working on it as we speak! I wish that I had one to recommend for you in the meantime, but I haven’t found any band workouts that I’d recommend that are effective AND safe!
    Be sure to sign up for my free newsletter and I’ll let you know as soon as it’s available! Look on the right side of my website for, “Free Newsletter and Exercise Log” on the right hand column.

    Have a wonderful day,