According to a new study presented at the annual meeting of the American College of Sports Medicine this month, the answer is “yes.” I don’t agree, but this scientific study is good and worth knowing about.
Scientists at the Mid America Heart Institute of St. Luke’s Hospital in Kansas City studied research on people who exercised at extreme levels, those participating in marathons, triathalons, ultramarathons or
long bike races. They found that people who exercised regularly saw significant benefits overall, tending to live seven years longer than their inactive counterparts. OMG, I have been right all along!
However, when they focused only on extreme athletes (performing aerobic exercise more than 2-3 continuous hours a day – seriously- when do they earn a living?), the researchers found that the healthy effect of all their activity not only declined, but reversed itself and became toxic. The scientists found that levels of troponin, which is the same enzyme that shoots up when someone is having a heart attack, elevated by up to 50 percent in runners during and right after a marathon.
This enzyme increases when the heart is stressed and means heart muscle is being damaged. The researchers said that it may start to climb as heart muscle fibers start to tear from the intense burden of pumping continuously at a high level during a lengthy and extreme exercise session. Over time, this can cause scar tissue to the heart. The damage doesn’t happen overnight, but builds up over years of training.
I don’t agree. This finding alone does not mean that the athletes are injuring themselves, but it does show that extreme sports does produce a negative stress effect on their hearts. Maybe that is why those extreme athletes don’t look that great!
The key take-away from the study is not that exercise is bad for the heart, or that it’s better to watch TV on the couch than go for a run. The message is that the heart and health benefits of exercise don’t require extreme efforts. When it comes to exercise, the phrase ‘everything in moderation’ is key. Based on the data, the researchers suggested that the optimal level of running for increasing life expectancy is about 10 to 15 miles per week and that 60 minutes of aerobic activity several days per week is best – anybody here, hearing Dallas Bariatric Surgeon, Dr Dirk’s voice right about now? Hello!?
I feel that daily aerobic exercise like walking at a 4 mph pace, jogging at a 5 mph pace, treadmill, elliptical, stationary bikes at a 12 mph pace is moderate aerobic exercise. Bariatric patients and even the healthy weight people benefit from metabolic and fitness testing and a prescribed and monitored exercise plan, such as NuVita® available through my Dr Dirk website. The use of mobile health devices such as heart rate monitors, combined with mobile Apps (that track the distances, calories burned, duration, and intensity of exercise) like my Fitness Pal®, can be tailored to provide a sensible routine that will provide health and weight loss without injury. I do not expect my patients to become extreme athletes. I always ask my patients to complete 60 continuous minutes of daily aerobic exercise.
Good health to you!