Two teenage girls from China went straight to the ICU after an uber-competitive match of who could do the most squats went out of control.
For 2 to 3 hours, the two girls claimed to have done at least 1,000 squats — an impressive number for someone who frequents the gym — but terrifying if you’re not the most active type of person.
“This is too embarrassing to say. I was chatting with [my friend] in Guandong over the Internet,” one of the girls, Xiao Tang, a 19-year-old sophomore at a college in Chongqing, China told China Press from the hospital.
Both of them started the competition over chatting online and bickering who had better stamina. Thus, they decided a squatting match would be a light exercise for them to determine who bested who.
Notably, both Xiao and her friend had immense competitive drives, and neither one of them are willing to back down and stop squatting.
“We both did not want to lose, and so we kept trying to beat each other,” she explained.
Eventually, both of them reached up to a thousand squats until they decided to call the match even.
Given that they were not entirely new to the idea of a workout, a little soreness and pain was expected.
But when the pain started to become unbearable, they figured that this was not the result of a simple workout.
“Something was wrong in the morning,” Xiao said. “First of all, my leg was not only sore, but I couldn’t bend it. Then I went to the bathroom and [my] urine was brown.”
Upon discovering the color of her urine, and along with the tremendous pain she was in, Xiao decided to seek medical treatment with the help of her boyfriend.
Doctors diagnosed Xiao with rhabdomyolysis, a severe condition caused by skeletal muscle injury.
It is not often for people to get diagnosed with this complication due to the result of extreme exercise or stress, but it remains to be a possibility.
Rhabdomyolysis occurs when the bloodstream is pumped too much with dead muscle fibers, to the point where they can overwhelm the kidneys.
Once both kidneys are compromised because of the amount of these dead muscle fibers that it needs to filter from the body, it could lead to severe and potentially fatal complications such as kidney failure and death.
In essence, because Xiao’s kidney was beginning to show signs of giving up and inability to do its job, her urine turned brown.
However, dead muscle fibers in the body’s bloodstream are not a bad sign at all. It is a natural result every time the body exerts physical effort.
It is basically how we build muscles, break them down every time we go on a long run, or lift some weights for them to heal, be better, and stronger. Each time we do this, we send out a protein called myoglobin through the bloodstream and to your kidneys, which filter them out.
The problem started for both these girls when they worked out too fast in such a short time. Meaning, their bodies were not accustomed to performing extremely strenuous activities; in this case, squatting 1,000 times when they have hardly done any prior exercise.
The way the body works is that it can train itself to handle heavier loads of strain, but this is developed over time. Doctors are not saying that doing a thousand squats is a bad thing, but doing so without proper training could certainly lead to severe complications.
”Getting this condition through extreme exercise is rare, ” Dr. Bruce Cohen, a medical officer for the FBI, told Live Science. ”Squats aren’t dangerous in and of themselves. The girls likely exerted themselves well above their physical limits to cause the condition.”
Rhabdomyolysis can also develop due to trauma, heatstroke, or the use of certain drugs, but for young people, overexertion seems to be a common cause. In 2018, a 17-year-old boy was hospitalized for five days after one strenuous, 90-minute weight-lifting session (he had not worked out for several years before the incident.) Another teen was diagnosed with it in 2015 after completing two strenuous football practices on the same day.
“Listen to your body,” Cohen said. “Don’t be stupid.”