Exercise – When It’s Too Much

Exercise, we all know it’s good for us, but is it really possible to have too much? When it comes to too much of a good thing, exercise might be an example. According to several new studies, extreme endurance exercise (e.g., exercising over an hour a day, racing multiple marathons in a lifetime, participating in Ironman distance triathlons) might be harmful for long-term heart health.

But wait, aren’t Americans not getting enough exercise? Isn’t the message to be more active, get the bottom off the couch and go take a run? Yes! Anything is better than having your derrière glued to a sofa cushion, but how much is really enough? Experts still don’t agree on a definitive answer, but considering most of us are basically sedentary, the belief has been the more the better.

It has been found though, that people who push their bodies too hard could essentially undo the benefits of exercise. In a study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology researchers from Denmark found that those who run at a fast pace for more than four hours a week, and more than three days a week, had the same risk of dying during a 12 year study as those who were sedentary and hardly exercised at all. Even when the researchers took into account factors such as age, sex, history of heart disease or diabetes, or whether they smoked or drank alcohol.

Even more surprising is that those with the lowest risk of dying during the study period were those who ran less than three times a week for one to 2.4 hours at a slow or moderate pace. The runners who ran just slightly more, for 2.5 hours showed a higher mortality risk of 66%.

As if more encouragement was needed to watch an entire series on Netflix every single night, the threat of death might inspire some to trade in their running shoes for slippers. Don’t throw in the towel yet, the researchers also found that both too little running and too much running are linked to higher rates of death. Those who stayed on the couch had the same risk of dying as the most intense runners.

What you need to know if there is a sweet spot in between exercising too much and not enough. If there’s a dent in your couch or in the soles of your running shoes you’re probably overdoing it. Do something good for yourself, be active but you don’t have to be extreme. Jog for a few hours no more than three days a week at a slow or moderate pace and you’re doing something good for yourself, but it won’t be too much of a good thing.