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Is Long-Distance Running Bad for Your Heart?

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New research supports the concept that you are not maximizing your efforts when you’re running marathons. On the contrary, the evidence is stacking up against conventional cardio. Here are several additional studies confirming the health-harming effects of long-distance running:

  • A 2006 study screened 60 non-elite participants of the 2004 and 2005 Boston Marathons, using echocardiography and serum biomarkers. Just like the featured study above, it too found decreased right ventricular systolic function in the runners, caused by an increase in inflammation and a decrease in blood flow.
  • Research by Dr. Arthur Siegel, director of Internal Medicine at Harvard’s McLean Hospital, also found that long-distance running leads to high levels of inflammation that may trigger cardiac events.
  • A 2006 study found that long-distance running leads to abnormalities in how blood is pumped into your heart.
  • In a study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology, researchers recruited a group of extremely fit older men. All of them were members of the 100 Marathon club, meaning athletes who had completed a minimum of 100 marathons. Half of these lifelong athletes showed some heart muscle scarring as a result – specifically the men who had trained the longest and hardest.
  • Recently published in the journal Circulation, this animal study was designed to mimic the strenuous daily exercise load of serious marathoners over the course of 10 years. All the rats had normal, healthy hearts at the outset of the study, but by the end most of them had developed “diffuse scarring and some structural changes, similar to the changes seen in the human endurance athletes.”

Research Now Shows You Can Gain Greater Benefits in Less Time

Clearly, when it comes to exercise, more is not always better. As I’ve learned in more recent years, the opposite is oftentimes true. Granted, this warning does not apply to the vast majority of people reading this, as most people are not exercising nearly enough. But it’s still important to understand that not only is it possible to over-exercise, but focusing on the wrong type of exercise to the exclusion of other important areas can actually do you more harm than good. Even if you don’t end up dying from sudden cardiac death during a race, years of marathon running can take a toll on your ability to achieve optimal health.

Research emerging over the past several years has given us a deeper understanding of what your body requires in terms of exercise, and many of our past notions have simply been incorrect.

For example, there’s compelling evidence showing that high-intensity interval training, which requires but a fraction of the time compared to conventional cardio, is far more efficient, and more effective. You can literally reap greater rewards in less time. The same can be said for the super-slow form of weight training, which mirrors many of the health benefits of high-intensity interval training. Research published in the journal Progress in Cardiovascular Diseases recently concluded that the best fitness regimen is one that mimics the movements of our hunter-gatherer ancestors, which included short bursts of high-intensity activities, but not long-distance running.

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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 90ís 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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