Is too much exercise bad for your health?

Is too much exercise bad for your health?

Cardiology, Fitness

We all have heard that too much of a good thing can be bad for you. But what about exercise, specifically aerobic exercise? There has been some evidence—not proof—that too much exercise could actually increase the risk of some heart problems, such as thickened heart valves or an abnormal rhythm. Cardiologists at the Cleveland Clinic (Ohio, USA) carried out a study to find the answer.

The researchers, who presented their results in the Journal of the American Medical Association Open, looked at survival data from 122,007 men and women who had undergone treadmill (stress) testing between 1991 and 2014. They compared the results of the treadmill testing with the survival rates of these men and women during the study period.

The treadmill exercise heart test

The treadmill test is a measure of cardiorespiratory fitness. It is performed with a doctor in attendance, as the person walks, then runs, faster and faster on the treadmill. All the time the person is monitored on an electrocardiogram as the person’s body is stressed with the increasingly fast treadmill.

Based on the test results of each person, the researchers classified each of the 122,007 people into five levels of cardiorespiratory fitness: low, below average, above average, high, and elite. The people in the top 2.3% of fitness were considered to have an “elite” fitness level.

The results

Then the researchers looked at how many of these people in the various fitness categories died over the time of the study. They found that survival increased dramatically as fitness level increased. Each higher level of fitness gave the person a higher chance at survival. The people at the elite fitness level had a 500% better chance of survival during the study than the people who were at the low level of fitness.

Importantly, the research showed that the people at the very top of fitness did not show any increased risk from “too much” exercise. The people who performed the best had the best chance of survival. The results were true for both sexes and all age groups. Even those above age 70, or people with other problems such as high blood pressure or diabetes showed better survival if they had high cardiorespiratory fitness.

More exercise = Longer survival

The results show that there was no problem with “overexercise”. This means that, if you are cleared by your doctor (probably by a treadmill test), that you should not fear vigorous exercise. This study showed the more exercise you can get, the better.

Lack of exercise even worse than smoking

The researchers also concluded that exercise was an even more important factor for survival than smoking, diabetes or high blood pressure. The principal author of the study said “Being unfit should be considered as strong of a risk factor as hypertension, diabetes and smoking — if not stronger than all of them.”

This does not mean that if you are an elite exerciser that you can smoke! It does mean that being sedentary is worse for your health than smoking, as far as your survival is concerned. So, if you want to live a long life, get out and exercise as much as you want (again, after being cleared by your doctor). The more the better!

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See also in ProcuraMed:

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Esta postagem também está disponível em: Portuguese (Brazil)

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