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Is Long-Distance Running Bad for Your Heart?

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Is Long-Distance Running Bad for Your Heart?

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A recent study looked at the heart function of 40 elite long-term endurance athletes after four endurance races of varying lengths.

By measuring cardiac enzymes and taking ultrasounds, the researchers were able to measure the acute effects of extreme exercise on the heart.

They found that:

  • Right ventricular (RV) function diminished after races
  • Blood levels of cardiac enzymes (markers for heart injury) increased
  • The longer the race, the greater the decrease in RV function
  • 12 percent of the athletes had scar tissue in their heart muscle detected on MRI scans one week after the race

The authors of the study concluded that, “intense exercise causes dysfunction of the RV, but not the LV.

Although short-term recovery appears complete, chronic changes may remain in many of the most practiced athletes.”

Dr. John Mandrola, M.D. writes:

“I’m not an alarmist, but this study scares me … RV damage is not good.

Diseases that affect the RV tend to cause electrical instability that may increase the risk of sudden death…

Exercise remains the most effective and safest means to prevent and treat heart disease. The overwhelming majority exercise far too little. In fact, I believe the US suffers from severe exercise-deficiency. That said, however, accumulating data suggest–at least–the possibility of an upper limit of what the human heart can sustain.”

I agree. Although exercise reduces your cardiovascular risk by a factor of three, too much vigorous exercise, such as marathon running, actually increases your cardiac risk by seven, according to a study presented at the Canadian Cardiovascular Congress 2010 in Montreal. This is a powerful lesson to anyone who engages in large amounts of cardio exercise, because as it turns out, excessive cardio may actually be counterproductive.

The Marathon Myth

The answer is to exercise correctly and appropriately, and making certain you have adequate recovery, which can be as important as the exercise itself. Part and parcel of a healthy exercise regimen is variety, but beyond that, there’s now overwhelming evidence indicating that conventional cardio or long-distance running is one of the worst forms of exercise there is. Not only have other studies confirmed the disturbing findings above, but they’ve also concluded it’s one of the least efficient forms of exercise.

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Read more: Fitness, General Health, Health, Heart & Vascular Disease

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Dr. Mercola

Dr. Mercola has been passionate about health and technology for most of his life. As a doctor of osteopathic medicine, he treated many thousands of patients for over 20 years. In the mid 90’s he integrated his passion for natural health with modern technology via the internet and developed a website, to spread the word about natural ways to achieve optimal health.


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2:05AM PST on Dec 31, 2012


11:33AM PDT on May 24, 2012

Good to know.

7:23AM PDT on Mar 27, 2012

Drat! I can't send another Green Star to Ron B. Consider it done anyway Ron.
Jane B. has said it well.

6:07AM PDT on Mar 27, 2012

Elite athletes don't exercise for their health - they do it to be successful in their sport. I know - I WAS one!

5:28AM PDT on Mar 27, 2012

I never thought that long distance running could be good for anyone. The very nature of it is abnormal. Endorphins- nuff said.

11:30PM PDT on Mar 26, 2012

Thanks for sharing

8:14PM PDT on Mar 26, 2012

I wish I could run but have been restricted frrom doing so since my knee operation.

7:23PM PDT on Mar 26, 2012

thanks :)

5:41PM PDT on Mar 26, 2012

To Mary L.

Sadly, it does...

This is almost frightening, for exercis is supposed to help you, not hurt you....but I suppose it must be done in moderation.....

5:26PM PDT on Mar 26, 2012

As long as you don't try to do too much too soon, long distance marathoning sure beats long duration couch potatoeing.

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Great article, great memories, just made my day alot greater.


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