Powered By Pixels
30 January 2024

How to know when your new healthy habits are becoming an obsession

30 January 2024

Sometimes, pursuing our fitness goals can become detrimental to our health if we do not strike a balance.

It’s why Caroline Idiens, a personal trainer for the last 25 years, is often asked whether it’s advisable to exercise every day.

“Truthfully, it requires a careful answer to prevent blurring the lines between excessive exercise, and the relaxed but enthusiastic approach to good health,” says Idiens, who is also a midlife fitness expert.

“Exercising every day is safe, depending on the level at which you are working. A daily walk or slow yoga session is fine, but high impact each day is not so good.

“Exercise is host to numerous benefits, particularly when it comes to our wellbeing – it helps protect against many chronic diseases, helps weight management, lowers blood pressure and improves heart, sleep and mental health. Most of all, it should energise you and make you feel good.”

Here are a few signs that your health enthusiasm has become an obsession.

Excessive activity

For Warren Whitely – also known as Woz – a fitness coach, movement director and founder of the Shred with Woz fitness plan, it’s amazing to see the fitness boom we are currently in.

Everyone is moving more, more gyms are opening, there are new class concepts, run clubs and more. But can this become an obsession?

Whitely believes it can, if we aren’t careful. “Enthusiasm for progression can lead to over-training, we only really need 45-60 minutes for a good workout, and when that session starts creeping into two to three hours, it’s time to adjust your training schedule to take back some time for actual life. It’s absolutely fine to enjoy working out, but there’s only so much you can do in one sitting,” says Whitely.

“Our muscles need fuel and rest in order to recover and grow, so over-training will not only lead you to a plateau, it also highly increases your risk of injury.”


Following over-restrictive diets often comes at a cost.

Whitley says: “Firstly, they’re usually extremely unsustainable, and also encourage you to eliminate some of the key nutrients needed for balanced nutrition. So you may see aesthetic change, but at what internal cost?

“Take the attention off the diet and focus on the discipline, because that’s what it is – a discipline.

“Can you integrate these changes into your life smoothly? Can you stick to a routine and eliminate [some of the less healthy] food choices? Whether it’s intermittent fasting or any other of the disciplines out there, choose one that works for you and isn’t too much of an extreme jump.”


Community is everything – even when it comes to pursuing your health and fitness goals.

“When trying to achieve a goal or reach a specific fitness target, it often comes at the expense of your social life. It’s completely OK to lock in and focus on you, but stay very aware that you’re not so locked in that you’ve alienated your loved ones and friends. Create a balance between work, movement, fun and family,” Whitely adds.

Extreme monitoring

Constantly tracking every aspect of your health, from calorie intake, calories burned, workout frequency, and supplements can become detrimental to your mental health.

Whitely says: “This can all lead to health anxiety and make you feel low when targets aren’t met. [It is] bad for mental wellbeing and takes the fun out of the journey.”

How can people find the balance?

If you are worried that your exercising has become obsessive, Idiens suggests trying to take some time away from the gym, decrease the time of your workouts and find other forms of low-impact exercise that you enjoy, such as tennis, swimming, walking, gentle cycling or yoga.

“Think about why you are exercising too much – is it that you enjoy it or is it weight-focused? Try to build in rest days and find alternative hobbies – outside of fitness – to enjoy and allow your body time to recover and repair. Your body will thank you for this in the long haul.

“I advise clients to focus on getting seven to eight hours of sleep per night and to eat a balanced diet. It’s important to drink lots of water and watch alcohol levels. Keeping your workouts varied and sticking to exercise that you enjoy is helpful to spot when your body may need a bit of rest.”

What happens to your body if you do push it to unhealthy physical extremes?

According to Idiens, too much exercise has some negative factors. Rest days are vital – especially if your fitness routine includes high-intensity exercise. You need rest days to benefit from your workouts.

“When you exercise – especially at a high intensity – you break down muscle tissue. If you do not give your muscles adequate time to repair, you put yourself more at risk of injury and illness. You are also compromising your immunity and overall health,” says Idiens.

“Your muscles need time to refuel and replenish their glycogen stores. On top of this, if you don’t rest, you will lose your motivation and be more at risk of ‘burnout’. Hitting burnout will impact both your fitness levels and mental performance, something you can’t always bounce back from quickly.

“Rest days don’t mean you have to completely stop all moving, however. Once again, walking, yoga, gentle cycling and swimming are all good – any exercise which isn’t putting your body through undue stress is welcomed here.”

How can people set more healthy and realistic fitness goals?

A great exercise schedule that Idiens would recommend to her clients would start with 30-40 minute workouts, four times a week.

“Include a mixture of medium to high-impact workouts, interspersed with lower-intensity workouts once or twice a week (such as swimming, cycling, yoga or Pilates) with either a mobility stretch session or a long walk on the weekend,” says Idiens.

“The high-intensity sessions could be either strength or cardio-focused, but I would definitely recommend at least two strength-based sessions a week – you can alternate upper body and lower body sessions.”

“I do not recommend more than three sessions of HIIT workouts per week and would advise one day of complete rest with any high-impact exercise.”

The best videos delivered daily

Watch the stories that matter, right from your inbox