Response to USA Today: You Can’t Exercise Too Much If You’re Not Exercising Enough

This week, news and media outlet USA Today published an article titled “Don’t get TOO much exercise during your coronavirus quarantine. Here’s why.” In summary, David Oliver, the writer, sends a message discouraging excessive exercise during our coronavirus quarantine. To the average person, his article might seem harmless and informative. However this article immediately stood out as problematic to me, as I know that our country is far from having a problem of exercising too much. After sending the article along to some colleagues, I realized that my perspective on the article will be best conveyed in a full response.

First and foremost, I want to talk about the source of Oliver’s argument. He discusses that the CDC recommends adults get 150 minutes of exercise a week, then states that we shouldn’t get carried away because “benefits top out at about 300 minutes per week.” After reading this, I was infuriated as a fitness professional. We live in a country where obesity and heart disease are the most viscious killers, and yet this article is concerned about us exercising too much? Clearly, in order to have a problem by exceeding 5 hours of exercise per week, we would all need to be exercising at least 2.5 hours/week.

The CDC reported in 2018 that only 23% of Americans aged 18 years or older were actually achieving their 150 minute (2.5 hours) per week recommendation. This means that over 75% of American adults aren’t even reaching 150 minutes of exercise a week, yet Oliver is concerned that we’re going to exercise too much.

As a trainer, I spend so much time trying to mitigate barriers to exercise that keep people from living healthy and happy lives. Oliver claims that because we have so much time on our hands now because of the coronavirus quarantine, we are bound to overdo it. Let’s not forget that more time isn’t the only thing that this pandemic brought to us. Our nation just got hit by the biggest exercise barrier we’ve ever faced when fitness facilities everywhere were forced to close. Now, people can’t even sign up for gym memberships even if they wanted to. This article and its title express a tone of exercise discouragement that gives plenty of Americans a reason to continue avoiding exercise.

I’m not saying that overtraining is impossible, as it is a serious issue. The problem I have is that overtraining is uncommon in the general population, and in order for it to be a concern, we have to be exercising a significant amount over a span of weeks, which doesn’t seem to be the case for most adults in our country. In the end, I think that this article sparks concern and fear mongers over an issue that is completely irrelevant to the average American. The last thing our nation needs right now is an article discouraging too much exercise in a time where positivity and mental wellness is so crucial.

USA Today should get feedback from professionals in the fitness industry before publishing an article like this. The academics who contributed to the article may be well-versed in their Kinesiology literature, but they are clearly lacking a practical background working with the general population in the fitness setting where we are able to better understand how people really work. The bottom line of this article isn’t terrible, as it concludes with more of a warning, however the damage is already done to readers by the aggressive title.

If this quarantine has brought more exercise into to your life, please continue doing what you’re doing. If you were discouraged from exercising by this article, it’s not too late to start moving. Start small and slowly work your way up, but always listen to your body to determine the right dose of movement for you!

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