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Don’t Fall Too Hard for Extreme Workouts

Don’t Fall Too Hard for Extreme Workouts

NASCAR driving legend Dale Earnhardt once said, “You win some, lose some, and wreck some.” He was talking about racing cars, but he could just as well have been referring to the latest craze for super-extreme workouts. You know the ones. The folks in the testimonials always say, “The first time I tried it, I thought I would die!” as if that were a virtue. 

Well, they’re closer to the truth than they know. Seems these body-bashing routines destroy muscles and threaten kidney health. Extreme workouts can trigger a condition called rhabdomyolysis—the breakdown of muscle cells that causes the release of a protein, myoglobin, into your bloodstream. Your kidneys aren’t equipped to process it and they shut down. Muscles are left depleted and dying. You can cause long-term damage to joints and tendons too.

Related: How Can I Prevent Running Injuries?

And the “fitness” companies know it! One even created cartoon characters called Uncle Rhabdo and Pukie the Clown to make light of the knock-you-down dangers of their exercises.  

We’d like to see keep your RealAge younger throughout your life—like 90+ year old Olga Kotelko, who still competes in track and field. As she says, “It's not how old we are; it's how we get old.” So if you want to stay fit for the long run, exercise regularly, but not extremely: 30-60 minutes of aerobics daily, plus two to three 30-minute strength-building sessions a week.  Olga’s muscles have been closely studied; they haven’t seen the usual breakdown that happens with age—and yours don’t have to either.

Related: How to Stay Fit Into your Golden Years

Medically reviewed in December 2019.

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