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Excessive Exercise Could Damage The Heart

From the UK’s Daily Mail:

Excess exercise ‘hurts the heart’ and cause [sic] dangerous long-term harm, say scientists

By Jenny Hope
3 June 2012

Extreme exercise such as marathons may permanently damage the heart and trigger rhythm abnormalities, warn researchers. They say the safe ‘upper limit’ for heart health is a maximum of an hour a day – after which there is little benefit to the individual.

One hour?

A review of research evidence by US physicians says intensive training schedules and extreme endurance competitions can cause long-term harm to people’s hearts.

Activities such as marathons, iron man distance triathlons, and very long distance bicycle races may cause structural changes to the heart and large arteries, leading to lasting injury.

Lead author Dr James O’Keefe, of Saint Luke’s Hospital of Kansas City, said exercise was generally beneficial for health but could tip into becoming harmful when taken to excessive lengths…

Have you ever seen a healthy looking marathon runner?

A review published in the medical journal Mayo Clinic Proceedings looked at studies detailing the mechanisms, pathophysiology, and clinical manifestations of cardiovascular injury from excessive endurance exercise.

Dr O’Keefe and colleagues said research suggests that extreme endurance training can cause transient structural cardiovascular changes and elevations of cardiac biomarkers, all of which return to normal within one week.

But for some individuals, over months and years of repetitive injury, this process can lead to the development of patchy scarring of certain areas of the heart, and abnormal heart rhythms.

In one study, approximately 12 per cent of apparently healthy marathon runners showed evidence for patchy myocardial scarring, and the coronary heart disease event rate during a two-year follow up was significantly higher in marathon runners than in runners not doing marathons

Endurance sports such as ultramarathon running or professional cycling have been associated with as much as a five-fold increase in the prevalence of atrial [sic] fibrillation, or abnormal heart rhythms. Chronic excessive sustained exercise may also be associated with other heart problems including artery wall stiffening

The phenomenon has been dubbed Phidippides cardiomyopathy – after the fatal heart damage suffered by the original marathon runner. The young Greek messenger in 490BC died suddenly after running 175 miles in two days, with the last leg of 26.2 miles from Marathon to Athens. His death was the first report of a sudden cardiac death of a long distance runner.

Dr O’Keefe stressed the review findings should not undermine the message that physical exercise was good for most people… But what this paper points out is that a lot of people do not understand that the lion’s share of health benefits accrue at a relatively modest level.

‘Extreme exercise is not really conducive to great cardiovascular health. Beyond 30-60 minutes per day, you reach a point of diminishing returns’ he added…

That still sounds too risky.

Luckily, we play it safe and avoid exercise all together.

This article was posted by Steve Gilbert on Tuesday, June 5th, 2012. Comments are currently closed.

5 Responses to “Excessive Exercise Could Damage The Heart”

  1. GetBackJack

    I quit listening to exercise experts when “they” told me drinking cold water could induce a heart attack and kill me.

  2. Rusty Shackleford

    Steve asks: “Have you ever seen a healthy looking marathon runner?”

    Honestly? No.

    In my own cynical viewpoint, I just think of them as endorphin addicts. The body releases chemicals when under the lengthy duress of distance running and I think a lot of these people are addicts. I have known a few that cannot sit still and have to go run…they say it’s when they’re their “happiest”. In other words, high.

    And, since that function of the human psyche has been well-studied and documented, I think they are as addicted to the release of whatever chemical it is, as a cocaine addict is to the fluffy white. The method of delivery is different. Can’t snort it or drink it or smoke it so to get it one has to “get to that spot” while running. And yes, marathon runners always look like crap.

  3. JohnMG

    Eat heathly…….exercise…….die anyway! What’s the point?

    Many years back, “experts” posited that eating grilled meats caused cancer since the juices dripped onto the coals and the resultant smoky flare-ups deposited carcinogenic substances on to the meat,which were subsequetly ingested. In response, I posited that I’d die happy, even if a bit prematurely. That was over fifty years ago. I don’t think I’ve ever fired up a grill without partaking of a barley-pop or two, and I’ve consumed a fair share of all manner of domestic and wild meat prepared over a charcoal (or wood) fire.

    These idiots are going to look mighty foolish lying in a hospital bed dying of perfectly good health.

    • Rusty Shackleford

      Once again, I must turn to the inescapable wisdom of Mark Twain: “Whenever I get the urge to exercise, I lie down for awhile until it passes.”


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