Over-Exercising Linked To Life-Threatening Condition

Exercising too much

“No pain, no gain,” has been a popularly quoted mantra. It has been considered fitness dogma lore and uttered by workout enthusiasts for decades. However the statement mistakenly encourages health conscious people to potentially go overboard, assuming the harder you train the better results you’ll achieved.

Pain is the body’s way of alerting to actual or potential tissue damage or injury. Pain is the sensory reaction to an undesirable stimulus.

Grueling through a particularly tough set of reps or a seemingly endless sprint on the treadmill to establish endurance is one thing, actually harming yourself and continuing on with the activity while tolerating excruciating pain or experiencing cold-shakes is another.

Worse still, athletes who continuously overexert themselves can end up with a life-threatening condition called rhabdomyolysis (rhabdo).

Rhabdomyolysis occurs when skeletal muscle tissue breaks down quickly and myoglobin (iron-oxygen binding protein within the muscle fibers) is released into the bloodstream.

Myoglobin disrupts kidney function and can cause damage or renal failure. High concentrations of myoglobin can be visually detected when urine is abnormally tea-colored.

Tests can be performed on blood serum levels as well as urinalysis to determine the occurrence of rhabdomyolysis.

Rhabdomyolysis is typically associated with trauma and crush injuries, but severe exertion such as marathon running or calisthenics can bring about the condition.

The condition can affect people of any race, age, gender, or fitness level. Mild symptoms include swelling, muscle pain, and weakness.

Rhabdomyolysis sent six unsuspecting Ohio State University women’s lacrosse teammates to the emergency room last year, none of whom had ever heard or been forewarned of the condition.

In March 2012, 21-year-old Kelley Becker showed up at lacrosse practice. Teammates provided urine samples and engaged in an intense workout. Becker described her symptoms before and after conditioning drills, detailing tingling sensations in her arms, shaking, diffused muscle soreness, and weakness.

After this particular training, Becker and five other teammates — Caylee Rafalko, Olivia Annalora, Taylor Donahue, Cara Facchina and Tayler Kuzma — were sent to the ER at Ohio State’s Wexner Medical Center, and told they were suffering from exertional rhabdomyolysis. Five of the six were admitted for further observation, including Becker who remained hospitalized for four days.

After the incident, officials recommended educational guidelines regarding rhabdomyolysis for the university’s 36 varsity sports programs.

In January 2011, the University of Iowa experienced a mini-epidemic when 13 football players were hospitalized for rhabdomyolysis, noting each had experienced tea-color urination after a strenuous practice. The athletes had returned from a near month long break and jumped into a peak level workout.

Ways of reducing the risk of rhabdomyolysis include maintaining a proper electrolyte balance, remain hydrated, minimize potential injuries, get rest which allows muscles to rebuild and heal after a workout, gradually increase into activity or exercise with warm-ups, and don’t start a workout on the highest intensity level especially after a prolonged break.

Experts recommend avoiding creatine supplements. Creatine supplements are often used by athletes, bodybuilders, wrestlers, and others who wish to gain muscle mass. However the use has been linked to asthmatic symptoms, kidney failure, and can potentially affect hydration status and heat tolerance.


Over-indulging, even on the healthiest of practices, can be fatal. Essentially more of a good thing isn’t always better.

Drinking plenty of fluids is important, but even too much water will cause water intoxication, causing hyponatremia. Hyponatremia is an electrolyte disturbance in which the sodium concentration in blood serum is lower than normal. Sodium is vital for maintaining blood pressure, and is needed for nerves and muscles to work properly.

Hyponatremia symptoms can include muscle spasms and cramping, fatigue, nausea, convulsions, restlessness, vomiting, irritability, headaches, confusion, hallucinations, and potential coma.

Taking vitamin and mineral supplements has been considered healthy, yet vast research has shown an excess of supplemented nutrients (acute vitamin toxicity) can lead to nausea, diarrhea, gastrointestinal upset, hair loss, and nerve damage. Prolonged mega-dosing, especially of fat-soluble vitamins, can be lethal.

Moderation has always been suggested in regards to exercise, diet, and overall fitness.

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