Excessive Exercise Linked to Coronary Atherosclerosis

This month, we summarized several studies showing the health benefits of exercise. Excessive exercise, however, can cause hardening of the arteries in the heart and increase the risk of heart attack— according to a study presented by British scientists. They studied 169 veteran competitive endurance athletes and compared them with aged-matched non-athletes. Athletes who ran more than 35 miles a week or cycled more than 150 kilometers per week had greater coronary artery calcium accumulation. Fahey and Swanson (Med Sport, 12 (4): 124-128, 2008), in an analysis of 20,000 subjects from the Physicians’ Health Study, predicted that 30 minutes of exercise was best for avoiding sudden cardiac death. People who exercised more or less than that were at increased risk. As Goldilocks could tell you, just as there’s an optimal temperature for porridge, there is an optimal volume of endurance exercise that promotes health. (European Society of Cardiology meeting, August 2015)

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