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Can exercise damage your health?

Yoga Exercise Class

 (Reuters)

There's no question that regular exercise is an essential part of any healthy lifestyle. It can help you lose weight and vastly improve your overall health. That said, if performed excessively or incorrectly, certain exercises can actually do more harm than good. 

That's why it's always wise to consult a physician before starting a new exercise regimen - particularly if you've been sedentary for a significant period of time. Here are five ways exercise can damage your health:

1. Injuries
Certain exercises, particularly repetitive, high-impact ones like jogging can serve to exacerbate existing injuries. What's more, your joints undergo serious strain during exercise which, over time, can result in serious damage. That's why important to take the necessary precautions before undertaking any serious exercise routine.

If you are having joint problems, you could try switching to low impact exercises that build stamina and flexibility like swimming, biking or yoga. If you do decide to jog, try running on softer surfaces like grass, rather than the unforgiving concrete.

2. Diet
It's well known that a healthy diet is an equally important component of an exercise regime. However, in some cases, individuals might substitute their healthy eating for exercise. A thorough workout causes intense food cravings, which could potentially ruin a strict diet, particularly if it involves cutting out carbohydrates or certain food groups. Although the extra food will usually be burned off with the right exercise regimen, if your training begins to lag, you may find yourself gaining extra pounds.

3. Improper weightlifting
While weightlifting can be a great way of burning calories and building muscle, if done improperly, it can also cause serious harm.

Dr. Joanne Wu, a neurologist at Unity Hospital in Rochester, N.Y., says poor posture and weights that are too heavy are the main reasons why weight lifting can damage your health. 

"It can often cause injuries, both in straining muscles and joints, as well as harming our discs," she says.

4. Extreme exercising
Though most of us will never have to worry about it, a growing number of cases have emerged of people becoming addicted to exercise. As we exercise, chemicals called endorphins are released, providing a euphoric feeling which could potentially become psychologically addictive over time, according to a 2011 study. This "extreme exercising" can have a negative impact on your health in a variety of ways.

"Doing too much, either in intensity or in duration can cause injuries," Wu explains. "These injuries can inhibit a person to stay active with an exercise and can often trigger inflammatory states. This can often lead to chronic pain and dysfunction."

5. Heart health
It's well known that proper exercise can improve blood circulation, lower cholesterol and improve your overall heart health. However, experts believe that over-exercising can actually have adverse long-term effects on your heart health.

A recent study conducted in Britain on a group of elderly former Olympic athletes found that over half the subjects had exhibited symptoms of muscle scarring on their hearts. While further studies are needed to confirm the theory, it may yet prove a link between exercise and subtle heart damage.