This One Healthy Habit Could Actually Be Harming Your Gut Health

woman with curly hair in blue sweatshirt

Urban Outfitters

As we all know, too much of a good thing is a thing. Even when it comes to personal wellness, our self-care practices have the potential to push us over the edge. One healthy habit in particular can have particularly damaging side effects if not done properly, and in today's world where physical well-being and self-betterment are king, we're especially prone to taking things too far.

The wellness practice alluded to above is working out. The side effects of overexertion are serious, yet they are often overlooked as correlated with your devotion to staying fit. Yes, overdoing it with your favorite workout—HIIT, Crossfit, running outdoors—can put tremendous strain on your body even while it's doing your body good. MindBodyGreen recently investigated how negative gut health can befall the fittest, most health-conscious people. The catalyst? Too much exercise.

In addition to fatigue, frequent headaches, lack of energy, and hitting a workout plateau, individuals who overexercise can also hurt their gut and mess up their digestion. Regular overexertion—exercising too frequently, for intervals that are too long, or simply pushing yourself beyond your body's safe zone—can loosen the intestinal barrier. This barrier is responsible for keeping out food particles and other things not intended to get through, so when you develop intestinal permeability—also known as a leaky gut—you're significantly more vulnerable to developing an immune response and increased inflammation. Down the line, this makes you more likely to face autoimmune disorders, metabolic diseases like type 2 diabetes, and even depression since your gut is responsible for producing about 95% of serotonin.

So while it's fine to push yourself at the gym, it's important to listen to and respect your body while you're working to improve it. Heed your body's signals when you're feeling discomfort, headaches, and increased fatigue. Drawing up a workout plan that makes time for rest days and time to let your body recover can help keep you from overdoing it. One of the biggest aspects of self-care is being mindful, so even when the task at hand requires pushing yourself to the limit, make sure you keep a healthy distance from going overboard—not only to see the result you want but to stay healthy and balanced from the inside out as well.

What other workout mistakes are wreaking havoc on your health goals? Check out the seven things you should never do after you work out.

Article Sources
Byrdie takes every opportunity to use high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial guidelines to learn more about how we keep our content accurate, reliable and trustworthy.
  1.  Exercise caution: over-exercise is associated with suicidality among individuals with disordered eating. Psychiatry Res. 2013 Apr 30;206(2-3):246-55. doi: 10.1016/j.psychres.2012.11.004. 

  2. Serotonin in the gut: Blessing or a curse. Biochimie. 2019 Jun;161:56-64. doi: 10.1016/j.biochi.2018.06.008. 

Related Stories