Is too much exercise harmful to longevity? Are extreme workouts dangerous to health? Experts weigh in

Helena V Berbie

Is excessive exercising bad for longevity and health?

Is excessive exercising bad for longevity and health?&nbsp | &nbspPhoto Credit:&nbspiStock Images

Key Highlights

  • Yes, sitting for too long is the next smoking. In fact, not exercising is worse for the heart than diabetes or hypertension can be, claims a doctor.

  • A study in the Netherlands claimed that its study of a large sample size of athletes’ cardiovascular health found that most of the extreme athletes had developed atherosclerosis.

  • Atherosclerotic coronary artery disease is the main cause of CVD morbidity and mortality. Does this mean excessive exercising is bad for health?

We have continuously been told that working out is good for our fitness and that the more you work out, the fitter you will be. But studies carried out on this front are now beginning to throw some light on what is the optimum amount required and whether there is such a thing as too much exercise.

A study was carried out by Yale University in New Haven, CT (USA) involving the data of 1.2 million people (18 years or older) all across the United States from the years 2011, 2013, and 2015 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Behavioral Risk Factors Surveillance System survey. The purpose was to gain a better understanding of how exercise affects a person’s mental health, and which types of exercise are best for a mood boost. The team set out to examine the association between exercise and mental health burden in a large sample and to better understand the influence of exercise type, frequency, duration, and intensity. The findings were published in The Lancet Journal of Psychiatry.

The study team found that 90 minutes of exercise every day improves mental health, but anything over this threshold is actually worse for mental health than no exercise at all, as reported by Medical News Today.

Athletes and the raised rate of atherosclerosis:

But a study published by the Radboud Institute for Health Sciences, Radboud University Medical Center, Nijmegen, the Netherlands had found that physically active individuals may have substantial, asymptomatic coronary atherosclerosis, substantial coronary artery calcification

and plaque in very active athletes. The researchers said that this is associated with an increased risk of cardiac events. But they also admitted that they needed further studies to learn “whether atherosclerotic burden in athletes confers a risk similar to that in the general population.”

Now that can be a reason for worry, as cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) are the leading cause of death worldwide, accounting for >17 million deaths per year. Atherosclerotic coronary artery disease is the main cause of CVD morbidity and mortality, says a study from the Netherlands.

What’s the upper limit on exercising?

But a report by the Cleveland Clinic (Ohio) in the USA puts to rest the worries on this account. The participants of this study went through health tests at Ohio’s Cleveland Clinic between 1991 and 2014.  The study findings were published in the JAMA Network journal. Researchers had set out to explore the association between cardiorespiratory fitness and long-term mortality.

In this cohort study, the researchers followed up health, exercise and lifestyle data of 1.2 million participants over 23 years to reach these conclusions, reports  

Women seemed to benefit more in terms of health when they included exercise in their routines. In addition, people of all ages benefited in terms of health when they exercised regularly.

In addition, people of all ages benefited in terms of health when they exercised regularly. 

Is there such a thing as excessive exercising? No ceiling, says doctor:

Not exercising is worse than excessive exercising: Cleveland Clinic cardiologist Dr Wael Jaber told News Medical that participants who were “unfit on a treadmill or in an exercise stress test” seemed to have a poorer outcome when it came to all-cause death rates compared to those who had diabetes, smoked or were hypertensive. 

Dr Jaber also mentioned that though there are some “ultra exercisers” who tend to push their bodies to extremes and though it is believed that extremes might be bad for health, he trusts that there is no “ceiling for the benefit of exercise.” 

This means that even “ultra exercisers” have a lower risk of dying compared to those who do not exercise. “Aerobic fitness is something that most patients can control. And we found in our study there is no limit to how much exercise is too much… Everyone should be encouraged to achieve and maintain high fitness levels,” Medical News Today quotes Dr Wael Jaber. 

Disclaimer: Tips and suggestions mentioned in the article are for general information purposes only and should not be construed as professional medical advice. Always consult your doctor or a professional healthcare provider if you have any specific questions about any medical matter.

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