Too much strenuous exercise may be bad for your heart, according to a review of studies to be published in the Canadian Journal of Cardiology.
Working out too hard too frequently can increase the risk of abnormal heart rhythm called atrial fibrillation or A-fib, reports Live Science. The condition involves incomplete pumping of blood in the heart, which can stress the cardiovascular system. A-fib is most commonly caused by high blood pressure and heart disease.
The research examined 12 studies on A-fib in athletes and endurance runners. They defined extreme exercise loosely as several hours of vigorous exercise nearly every day — something elite and endurance athletes endure.
“Overdosing” on exercise may be toxic to the heart, according to Dr. André La Gerche, a sports cardiologist at the Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute in Melbourne, Australia, and the author of the new review study.
He told Live Science that his research explores “the often questionable, incomplete and controversial science behind the emerging concern that high levels of intense exercise may be associated with some adverse health effects.”
Unfortunately, it’s difficult to estimate how much exercise is too much.
“We have not conclusively proven that too much exercise is bad — although there are plenty of strong hints — and we are miles from being able to know where the cutoff point is,” La Gerche explained.
Other scientists believe that the benefits of extreme exercise (i.e., lower blood pressure, lower body fat, etc.) outweigh the risks.
And several studies have proven that moderate-intensity exercise, such as jogging, biking and swimming, help fight against weight gain and heart disease. The Centers for Disease Control recommends people get 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week.
Vigorous exercise is defined as movements that make one short of breath and break out in a heavy sweat (hiking, low-impact aerobics, long-distance running).
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