Is exercise doing you more harm than good?

You probably are doing more harm than good. I know this sounds shocking, but it’s the truth and somebody needs to tell it. Exercise programs, personal trainers and gyms are a huge fad, and big business is cashing in on people’s insecurity, guilt and FOMO. 

What does the science say?

1.    Exercise causes inflammation. Increased oxygen utilisation causes increased oxidative stress from free radicals. This damages the heart and other organs. Arnold Schwarzenegger had to have heart surgery at the age of 49!

2.    Exercise can cause addiction to carbohydrates and cause pre-diabetes. It destroys your discipline to eat the right food because of the body’s natural craving for carbs after a workout. 

3.    Exercise causes adrenal fatigue.

4.    Exercise causes premature aging.

5.    Exercise damages the joints.

6.    Exercise lowers your immune system, and gyms are breeding grounds for bacteria and viruses. Research shows that people who work out in a gym get sick more often.

7.    Exercise can cause you to neglect relationships, much in the same way that working too much in your job does.

The Japanese believe that the heart has a finite number of beats, the back has a finite number of bends, and the cartilage has a finite number of shock absorptions, and once you’ve reached your individual quota, your body begins to fail.

Is exercise good for your body shape?

Most people think that exercise is what brings their body back to its original shape, but this is simply not true. Your body is shaped by the type of food you eat, how much you eat and when you eat. Your body does not like to be over-weight and out of shape. Your organs are primed for bringing you back to your equilibrium, so they have to work overtime to process unwanted food and inevitably store it as fat. Over the years, this takes its toll on your organs. If you eat just right, the body will naturally return to its original shape without the need to exercise. And this will also boost your immune system and your energy levels because you have taken the pressure off your organs. 

Don’t get me too wrong. I believe in physical activity, it is great for your mental and emotional health. The right type of physical activity, that is. But here’s the thing, most physical activity promoted by gyms and personal trainers is not fun. It’s a WORK-out. It is stressful, not just on the body (as listed above), but also on your mind and emotions. There is the pressure of keeping up in a class, coupled with body shape insecurities. Who wants to finish WORK and go do more WORK at a gym? It is ALL work and too much of it causes the stress hormone cortisol to surge through your body. 

Research emphatically shows that physical activity is only good for you if you are having fun doing it. Playing sport with mates is good for you because it is social. Dancing is the best exercise on the planet, which is why PLAY-outs such as Zumba is so popular. It significantly reduces cortisol and gives you a surge of feel good hormones. It’s a PLAY-out, not a WORK-out. Running around the house playing hide-and-seek with your kids is also a great play-out. Going for a power walk with a colleague at lunch time is also a good option. The main rule is how it makes you feel. If it makes you smile, it is fun. If it makes you grimace, then you know it’s a stress. It’s that simple.

Most people fall into the trap of WORKING-out because they think it’s the gateway to an awesome life. The truth is that there are other more effective strategies for living with high energy, excitement, a sharp mind, strong self-esteem, and purpose. These are:

1.    Go out, have fun and socialise more with family and friends. Want to learn the art of having fun? Read this. 

2.    Stay away from toxic people.

3.    Eat less, eat in season, eat 70 per cent green, eat slow, eat with gratitude.

4.    Stop feeling guilty. If you do indulge, at least, enjoy it emotionally. The feel-good hormones are good for you.

5.    Schedule intimacy with your partner. Never stop “dating” them.

6.    Sleep more, wake at sunrise and have naps on weekends.

7.    Get more sun on your eyes first in the morning, and on your body on weekends. It’s the best medicine for a good night’s sleep, your mood and your immune system.

8.    Keep reading, learning and developing a growth mindset.

9.    Work with people who challenge you and want the best for you.

10.    Don’t watch or read the news. It promotes a fear mindset. Trust me, you would rather be uninformed than misinformed.

11.    Make alone time to daydream or meditate or pray for what you want. Visualisation is a very powerful and underrated pastime.

In addition to his role as managing director of MSA National, Sam Makhoul is the legal group’s chief wellness officer, a keynote speaker and author of A Higher Branch.


Richard Wilkinson (not verified) , Jul 27 2018
Comments on exercise are absolute garbage, and should not be promoted on a wellness site.
Nick Mallory (not verified) , Jul 27 2018
This is an incredibly stupid article. Yes, there's no need to waste money on personal trainers, gyms or fancy gear to get fit, but arguing that society is suffering from an excess of exercise - rather than obesity - is absurd. The diseases caused by lack of movement are far worse than the injuries one might pick up through exercise. I'd much rather have a sore hamstring for a week than type 2 diabetes forever. Dancing is not 'the best exercise on the planet'. Just because you don't enjoy exercise doesn't mean other people don't. You may see it as torture, but lots of people actually enjoy going for a run, lifting weights, attending crossfit, playing a sport or whatever else interests them. Exercise strengthens your joints, it doesn't wear them out. Tell yourself you're healthier than some guy jogging past you while you struggle up a hill all you want, but it doesn't make it true. For this drivel to be posted on a 'wellness' site is pretty poor. Next week I guess it's going to be 'health at any size' and adverts for vaping?
Miles (not verified) , Aug 07 2018
Agree Nick - I usually enjoy lifting weights and while I don't always enjoy cardio I definitely enjoy the feeling after.
Marek (not verified) , Jul 27 2018
Where is 'the science' to back this article up? Furthermore, as with all science, results of experiments can vary and the only way to definitively prove something is to repeat the same experiment over and over under the same (or near identical) conditions. Arnold Schwarzenneger having heart surgery at 49 is not worth even mentioning in this article. At best it's a case of the exception fallacy, at worst it has more to do with his overexercising (not to mention possible use of steroids).

Like just about everything in life, exercise should be done in moderation. As Nick Mallory mentioned above, just because one person doesn't like working out, it doesn't mean that I or someone else also share the same feelings. Depending on the exercise you do, it can also help build mental resilience. I personally enjoy wrestling and grappling and this is a very hard workout, but training with people who are better than me keeps me coming back for more, wanting to learn how to get the better of them next time. This is not something I would want to do every day, as it is gruelling, but a few times a week it's a great way to blow off steam, build strength and cardio fitness and learn something as well.

On the positive side, I do agree with all 11 points you have listed at the end of the article.
SamMakhoul (not verified) , Jul 30 2018
There is a difference between “wellness” and fitness. Wellness is a holistic look at cellular ageing, cognitive performance, and overall emotional happiness.

The longest living people on the planet in the blue and green zones do not ‘work-out’ and the point of this article is to point out that physical activity is much better for you when you are enjoying it. There is an epidemic of seriousness in our society. Having fun and playing like children is a lost art and it slows down ageing. This was emphatically demonstrated in the famous “counter clockwise study” by Dr Ellen Langer of Harvard.

Dancing was cited as an example because of its huge benefits on cognitive and emotional health and not just fitness. There are numerous studies supporting the fact that dancing is best for 'wellness'.

The other clear point of this article was to point out that nutrition and eating habits has a far greater impact on your body shape than exercise. Again there are numerous studies supporting this.

It is time we start respecting the fact that everyone is different and resist the temptation to evangelise certain lifestyles. The readers of Wellness Daily are professionals often struggling with time pressures and work/life balance. They simply do not always have time for gym memberships and stressful work-outs. This article gives people permission not to feel guilty about not being a gym junkie and gives alternative fun ways to get moving.
JB (not verified) , Aug 03 2018
Thanks Sam for one of the funniest articles I have read in a long time. It is a joke, right?
I would like to see the science of this adrenal fatigue, the joint damage, the premature aging, "addiction" to carbs, neglecting relationships. Funny because the science I have seen has been the complete opposite to this.

And the whole Japanese finite # of beats thing is a complete piece of rubbish; which I know, you know.

Wellness is a concept to comprehensively look after yourself, mind and body, so to profess complete fallacies as facts hinders this. Your article is not "giving people permission not to feel guilty" its telling them that it is harmful to actually exert some energy. That's not helping them with work/life balance, its justifying an unhealthy lifestyle. The most common prescription physiologists give to people suffering stress/anxiety/depression is regular and often vigorous exercise due to the mental benefits (ever heard of an endorphin). To be honest, if I got to the point that I considered hide and seek with my kids a workout, then I would say I am seriously unhealthy.

Caitlin (not verified) , Aug 09 2018
As being someone who has suffered adrenal fatigue when I didn't work out it really isn't caused by working out. Also knowing that working out has been the best thing I could be doing to get myself back and going as it gets the right hormones moving. I really don't like the science being quoted in this movie.
Kim T (not verified) , Aug 03 2018
Wow. Just wow. Overly zealous article against exercise. I get the point but you took it too far.
Optim-eyes (not verified) , Aug 03 2018
excessive strain is not health, use it or loose it, overuse it and loose it. great article. have fun - enjoy the ride - no up without down etc :- )
Graham (not verified) , Aug 03 2018
April fools day joke?
Unknown (not verified) , Aug 06 2018
Some people should actually do some research before they comment.


Love this .. I grow my own veggies and fruit, they taste better when in season locally
Jules 23 days ago
Thanks, Sophie -- some good life advice in your article!
Peter Eedy 41 days ago
Hey Sophia, I’m the dad of a 12 year old rugby player, Molly has been playing for 4 years. Great insight into the thought process of a young woman and I’m hoping the benefits she’ll get over time.
Paul Bunker 43 days ago