Can There Be Too Much of a Good Thing?

Celebrating life with great people, after a gorgeous evening run. Photo Courtesy of Charly Caldwell II

There is constant information in the media regarding inactivity and recommended activity levels.

The CDC and both post the recommended guidelines for youth ages 7-17 as:

“an accumulation of at least 1 hour a day of moderate to vigorous physical activity”.

As I am sure you know, inactivity has a negative impact on health in terms of obesity, diabetes, heart and cardiovascular function.

Exercise and sport, however, has shown to have a positive impact on these health factors, as well as bone density and structure, social interactions, sleep and mood improvement.

I want to focus however, on the other end of the spectrum, as physicians and therapists are seeing more young patients with issues due to over-activity related to exercise and sports.

To be fair, this is commonly due to a combination of factors, such as growth spurts, an accumulation of school or regional sports, muscle imbalances and/or postural weakness.

This in turn leads to certain overuse conditions like knee pain, heel pain, or shin splints.

Not allowing sufficient rest or recovery from training and events can also lead to fatigue, decreased achievement and impaired school performance.

Over-activity occurs over time with young adults becoming progressively involved and dialed into multiple sports while also trying to manage the demands of their school requirements.

In more extreme cases, we see those so determined to achieve their sports goals that they may not disclose injuries or accurately report the severity of their pains.

Ignoring symptoms can place a child at risk of stress fractures or damage to the growth plates in bones.

While the motivation to be our best is usually beneficial, it can result in overloading key structures and tissue in the body.

It is not uncommon for young adults to ramp up their gym based sessions too quickly, in school or independent environments, to the point where the body cannot tolerate this change.

Examples include weight training such as squatting, lifting or pressing progressively higher weights with limited recovery time.

It may also occur when the muscle groups are required to perform high levels of loading, such as plyometric work (think box jumps and bounding exercises), without the sufficient postural stability.

Identifying patterns of over-activity can come through discussions with an experienced professional.

Education via your physiotherapist or personal trainer can swiftly identify patterns of potential overloading, meaning a relatively simple sprain or ache is prevented from becoming something more long-term and frustrating.

Things to consider if you feel a child or adolescent may be doing too much are:

  • Are there ‘rest days’ within the week (including the weekend) without any scheduled sports or training?
  • Have there been recent growth spurts – consider new clothes/uniform or replacement shoes?
  • Is there increasing difficulty getting them up in the mornings or fatigue reported in school?
  • Have they mentioned pains or aches – this can be in many areas but commonly are heels, shins, knees or hips?
  • Do they have supportive footwear for sports and school, is there notable wear to the soles?
  • Have they increased the frequency or intensity of their gym sessions?

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