There’s Finally Heart Health Data on Extreme Exercise

There’s Finally Heart Health Data on Extreme Exercise

A new analysis tracks people doing 35 hours of exercise per week for a decade, and finds no evidence of heart risks

Posted on 28.11.2019

Back in 2011, former Boston Marathon champion and longtime Runner’s World journalist Amby Burfoot interviewed a leading cardiologist about emerging claims that too much running might be bad for your heart. The controversy hadn’t really blown up yet, and it wasn’t until the following year that the scary headlines hit mainstream media outlets: “One Running Shoe in the Grave,” “Running Farther, Faster and Longer Can Kill You,” and so on.

But the questions were starting—and Burfoot, for one, was already getting tired of them. Small studies seemed to hint that high volumes of endurance exercise might negatively affect various proxy markers of health like the thickening of heart tissue and calcium levels in hardened arteries. Burfoot wanted more tangible evidence, though: “If you think you’ve got something,” he suggested, tongue in cheek, “show me the bodies in the streets.”

…  new data presented at an American Heart Association conference in Philadelphia includes a bunch of truly hardcore endurance athletes who were averaging more than five hours of exercise per day and had been doing it for decades. The good news: their hearts for the most part looked fine.

We studied the most strenuous exercisers ever, and there were no heart deaths in 10 years of follow-up.

Alex Hutchinson
Outside Magazine





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