On this blog, we often talk about the benefits of exercising, and nothing gets your heart pumping quite like a good race. But the New York Times’ “Well Blog” recently posed an interesting question: is it possible to have too much of a good thing?
This post discusses a study of marathon runners and their spouses to see how prolonged training affects the heart. Scientists found that, although marathon runners generally had lower risk of heart attacks, running did not insulate them from heart disease entirely because factors other than exercise play a role in one’s heart health. Dr. Taylor, who led the study, said: “in essence, the scans showed that marathon training did not cancel out the depredations of age, longstanding bad health habits or a family history of cardiac problems.”
The study did, however, find that it likely isn’t the long hours of training that is putting a strain and creating damage to these racers’ hearts.
One other positive finding of this study is that prolonged exercise likely is not hurting one’s heart; rather, it is strengthening it. This is good news, but when exercising and committing to endurance sports, it is important to understand your family history, know previous health habits and monitor any potential signs of heart trouble (such as shortness of breath).
One of the other interesting findings is that endurance training’s cardiac benefits may actually be transferrable! The spouses of marathon runners were generally quite healthy and active, leading to lower risk of cardiac disease.
At Vasomedical, we’re proponents of exercising for your heart health, but always understanding your limits. Check with your physician before starting any exercise program. And, if you want to start exercising or want to be more active but the symptoms of angina and congestive heart failure are stopping you, ask your physician if EECP® Therapy might be a “bridge to exercise” for you.
Tell us: are you a marathon runner or a runner in general? What exercise do you work into your healthy lifestyle?