Rhabdomyolysis is a serious condition resulting from the breakdown of skeletal muscle fibers with leakage of muscle contents (myoglobin) into circulation. If not treated expeditiously, it may lead to kidney failure. While there are many causes of rhabdomyolysis, the one the fitness industry evaluates is overexertion due to exercise.
Too much exercise can lead to individuals being hospitalized with rhabdomyolsis. This condition is not specific to, nor is it more prevalent in beginner fitness enthusiasts. Doctors and fitness experts agree that anyone beginning a fitness program who has little or no experience should take it slow and build up in intensity and duration over time. One case documents a 29 year-old male who decided to perform 30-40 sit-ups every night. After 5 consecutive days, he developed this condition. On the opposite end of the spectrum, the University of Iowa put their football team through a rigorous workout after a 3 week long winter break. That workout, supervised by professional trainers, sent 13 football players to the hospital for treatment.
The most notable symptom is urine color. Specifically, the urine is darker than normal, becomes the shade of tea or cola, or is red. Other symptoms include severe muscle pain, muscle swelling, or muscle weakness. Normal muscle soreness from working out occurs 1-3 days later, while soreness that comes on immediately or within 24 hours is possibly related to this syndrome. If you experience any of these symptoms go directly to the hospital. A simple blood test will show whether you have this condition or not.
Exercise is not the only risk factor. Statin drugs, sickle cell anemia, McArdle disorder, alcoholism, trauma from an accident, severe exercise such as a marathon, heat stroke and amphetamines all increase the risk of developing rhabdomyolisis.