How much exercise is too much?

Whether it’s your new-year’s resolution to hit the gym, you’re starting a 6-week challenge, or you’ve just started your return to work program with an Exercise Physiologist, good on you! Committing to be more active is half the effort, but now what? When motivation is at an all-time high, going from zero exercise to running a marathon may sound enticing. Although if you’re going from doing nothing to exercising for an hour 7 days a week, odds are you’re setting yourself up for failure and/ or injury!

Doing more exercise than prescribed.

There is a very good reason as to why sometimes ‘less is more.’ I have spoken with a couple of my clients on return to work programs who are under the impression that the more they do the quicker they will get better. This is certainly not the case and can sometimes do more harm than good. Firstly, I’m so glad they are motivated and want to get better although, at the same time, it’s so important to take a graded approach to exercise, especially if they have not done much physical activity before.

While under the workers compensation umbrella, getting you back to work is our number one priority, our programs are specific to each individual and this is why patient A, a 60-year-old truck driver may have lighter weights prescribed in his program than patient B, a 27-year-old brick labourer. Often people try to challenge this prescription and do much more than required because they feel the more they do the quicker the results will come. Instead, this can result in an increase in symptoms, overload and slower progressions.

Find your exercise capacity by taking small steps

For any individual, doing some physical activity is better than none. The best advice I ever received was to find something you enjoy, as soon as you find something you look forward to completing you will be so much more inclined to do so.

In addition to finding an activity you enjoy, don’t start exercising at 100mph. Find an exercise and intensity that you can maintain, and it will stick with you forever – a frequency and intensity that’s going to make you look forward to your workouts, not make you dread them. If you dread workouts, reality is you will never stick with them and when starting a new regime, adherence to your program is priority number one.

Your body needs to rest.

Sometimes finding the motivation to work out is the biggest challenge, but other times, like when we are really determined to reach a goal or feel like we need to make up for lost time, the opposite is true. Rest days are important for overall health and performance and can help you reach your goals earlier.

The truth is when we exercise we intentionally add physical stress to the body to adjust. Our body’s acute response to stress is to increase heart rate, respiratory rate, and cardiac output which initially can be quite a shock. Starting slowly means your body has time to adjust to this increase in physical activity.

For strength training, ACSM recommendations suggest strength training 2-3 days per week and leaving at least 48 hours for recovery in between each training session. You should always allow enough time to recover fully, although not so much time that you regress and lose the improvements you’ve achieved. Resting is just as important as working out as it’s an equal part of the total process required to build strength, endurance and muscle.

So how much exercise do you need to do?

Firstly, please understand that everyone is different, and exercise is not a ‘one size fits all’ approach. Although, ACSM recommends that adults accumulate 150-300 minutes of moderate or 75-150 minutes of vigorous physical activity each week. In addition to this, it is also recommended that each individual incorporates muscle strengthening exercises 2-3 days per week. In saying that, if you’re currently not doing any exercise please don’t feel you need to be able to do this straight up – instead aim for 30 minutes of exercise 5 days per week and work up from there.

If you have any questions on any of the above or feel you need some additional guidance with your exercise program please feel free to contact us on 9244 5580 or alternatively you can visit our website at

Channai Graham (B.Sc-Ex.Sp.Sci,Post.Grad.Dip.(Clin.Ex.Phys))

Accredited Exercise Physiologist (AEP) (AES) (ESSAM)


Clinical Framework. (2019). Retrieved from

Powell, K., Paluch, A., & Blair, S. (2011). Physical Activity for Health: What Kind? How Much? How Intense? On Top of What?. Annual Review Of Public Health32(1), 349-365. doi: 10.1146/annurev-publhealth-031210-101151

Riebe, D., Ehrman, J., Liguori, G., & Magal, M. ACSM’s guidelines for exercise testing and prescript