06/13/2015 10:01 EDT | Updated 06/13/2016 05:59 EDT

Exercising: How Much is Too Much?

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It's "no pain, no gain" when it comes to seeing results at the gym, right? Well, Sunnybrook physiotherapist Alicia Savona says this is true, but like most rules, there are exceptions.

Below are some telltale ways to gauge whether or not the muscle pain you're experiencing is normal:

1. The amount of pain you feel. Delayed muscle soreness means that you may feel muscle pain up to two days after your workout. This is normal, and in this case, it is important that you continue to move, as this helps remove the lactic acid from your muscles.

But if you are sore any longer than two days after exercise, it could be a sign that you worked out too hard, and should maybe scale back next time you hit the gym, Savona says.

2. Where you feel the pain. The location of the post-workout pain you are experiencing can also be a sign that you pushed your exercise limits. For example, if you did a leg workout, and you feel pain in your back or shoulders, this could mean that you overworked your legs. It can also signify that you did some of the leg exercises incorrectly, says Savona.

3. The type of pain you are experiencing. If your muscles are sore to the touch, or if they are swollen, red and/or bruised, these are sure signs that you over-exercised, says Savona.

Reducing pain while exercising: If you are new to exercising, the best way to reduce pain is by starting out slow.

If you are going to start weight lifting, start with 1-2lb weights, doing repetitions of 8-10 at one time, Savona says. If you experience pain while doing any exercise, stop and reduce the weight you are using.

Start weight lifting three times per week for 20-30 minute sessions, leaving plenty of room for recovery time in between workouts.

Over time, as your exercise routine becomes easier, you can then begin to increase the weights you are lifting, increase the time you spend working out, or reduce your recovery days, she says.

For more health tips from our experts, visit Your Health Matters.

Co-authored by Jessica Lepore, Jr. Digital Communications Specialist at Sunnybrook.


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