How Intense Workouts Are Causing An Increase In This Harmful Condition

Overworking your muscles through intense workouts can lead to a potentially life-threatening condition called rhabdomyolysis.

We all know exercise is good for our bodies, but too intense of a work-out can actually be detrimental to your health. 

Typically, after breaking a sweat, you end up with delayed-onset muscle soreness, which comes from using muscles that aren't accustomed to working out, Women's Health Magazine reported.

But there is such a thing as dangerously overworking your muscles, especially with SoulCycle, CrossFit, or some other popular, high-intensity fitness class that's meant to "no pain, no gain" you. 

While exercising is obviously beneficial, extremely physically demanding classes have been causing a spike in people getting rhabdomyolysis, which is a serious condition of muscle injury that can make your muscles leak contents into your kidneys. Rarely, rhabdomyolysis can even kill you.

Typically, this condition is found in military soldiers or firefighters, The New York Times reported.


"These are people who are not unfit," Dr. Todd S. Cutler, an internist at Weill Cornell Medicine and New York-Presbyterian told The New York Times. "They are being pushed too hard, and they're not trained to do this, and so they get really bad muscle trauma."

In April, New York-based schoolteacher Lauren Peterson decided to attend a spin class, according to Today. But after 15 minutes of intense cycling, she felt faint and nauseous. Two days later, her urine was dark and her thigh muscles were in so much agony that putting on socks almost brought her to tears. She was later diagnosed with rhabdomyolysis, and her doctors told her she was lucky she didn't badly damage her kidneys. After a months of physical therapy, Peterson's thighs are almost back to normal.

"Spinning is great exercise," Dr. Maureen Brogan, a kidney specialist who wrote a report on Peterson's case, told Today. "But people should be aware they need to take it slow in the beginning. There should be some guidelines."


Spinning in particular uses your quadriceps and gluteus maximus, which are some of your body's biggest muscles. Intense exercise, especially if you're not used to it, can cause the muscles to burst from a lack of oxygen, hence rhabdomyolysis.

A 2016 study found that between 2010 and 2014, there were 29 cases of emergency room-diagnosed rhabdomyolsis caused by spin classes.

But rhabdomyolysis isn't just siloed to spinning, and is being noticed in athletes who are overworked. In January, an intense fitness test resulted in eight volleyball players from Texas Woman's University hospitalized with rhabdomyolysis, NCBDW reported. Unlike previous years in which players completed as many reps as they could in a designated time period, this time, the fitness test made the players perform a certain number of reps in a given time period. Right after the test, the players returned to practice and scrimmages without resting.

As scary as these stories sound, the thing about rhabdomyolysis is that it is 100 percent avoidable. "People need to understand that rhabdo is not inherent with training," Jay Hoffman, former president of the National Strength and Conditioning Association, said, according to The Columbus Dispatch.

Individuals shouldn't avoid exercise, but rather pace themselves. It's better to take it easy than put your health in jeopardy. 

Thumbnail/banner image credit: Wikimedia Commons user Marco Verch

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