The Top Concern with Extreme Exercise

Comp_Nut_Now_products_page_coverWhile I love to encourage readers to exercise and get active, I caution them about exercising to the extreme. Some exercise programs, like the 21-Day Fix Extreme, may be OK, but new findings suggest that extreme exercise can do more harm than good.

Researchers at the Mid America Heart Institute of St. Luke’s Hospital in Kansas City, Missouri found that physical activity, like any medical treatment, can be harmful when “overdosed.”

The research team looked at people who participated in marathons, triathlons, ultramarathons (50 or 100 mile racers) or long bike races.   Overall, they found that people who exercised regularly received health benefits, tending to live seven years longer than those who were physically inactive.  But when they focused only on the extreme athletes themselves, they found that the healthy effect of all their activity tended not only to decrease, but even worse, it became detrimental.


Other studies revealed that during and immediately following a marathon, runners showed a 50% increase in levels of an enzyme called troponin, which signifies damage to the heart.  Troponin releases when heart muscle is in distress and it shoots up in patients having heart attacks.  With repetitive troponin release over time, as occurs during lengthy, intense exercise sessions, the damage can cause scar tissue, which makes the heart more vulnerable to abnormal heart rhythms.

Bottom Line

Any ‘healthy’ approach taken to the extreme may not always be healthy.  A famous quote that embodies this idea is the extreme of one gives birth to the other, which is captured visually by the Yin-Yang symbol of Taoism. 

Yin Yang, the most well known Taoist visual symbol.

In other words, to have health and harmony with fitness (and life), balance is essential.  In striving for balance with any health program, be cautious of taking an extreme approach.  We’ve learned that exercising too often at high levels of intensity may break the body down and suppress the immune system.  We know that consuming too many protein bars with casein or whey protein can trigger a food allergy (I learned this first hand).

While researchers have shown that too much exercise is bad for the heart, too little is not necessarily good either.  If you’re an athlete, a couple hours a day is quite common.  However, non-athletes are encouraged to strive for moderate fitness activity like 15-60 minutes a day, several days a week.

About Dave Barnas, M.S., CES, NASM-CPT

Dave is the true health guy. He is the founder and owner of True Health Unlimited, LLC, a personal health and fitness company in Tolland, CT & Wellness Writers, a subscription wellness newsletter service that incorporates live & virtual wellness workshops for companies across New England. Dave earned both a Bachelor's (1998) and Master's Degree (2000) in Nutritional Science from the University of Connecticut, and also holds certifications as a National Strength and Conditioning Association Certified Personal Trainer, National Academy of Sports Medicine Certified Personal Trainer and Corrective Exercise Specialist, Aerobics and Fitness Association of America Group Instructor, and Nutrition Specialist. He's also the lead author for four published works. Dave has over 20 years of combined experience in nutrition counseling, dietary supplement advising, personal training, corrective exercise training, health coaching and public speaking. In addition, he's spent over 25 years studying spirituality, meditation, and personal growth strategies. Dave's clients are all ages: youth, college championship level athletes, folks in their retired years, and everywhere in between. He's worked with three of the nation's leading physicians as a dietary supplement advisor and been a guest lecturer at Harvard University, Yale University, UConn, St. Joseph College and various church groups, health clubs, and high schools. In 2013, he was invited to Whole Foods Market to share his Real Food Therapy Guide. And in 2015, Dave's funny "Snowga" (yoga in the snow) video caught the attention of The National Weather Channel, who aired it to shake off cabin fever and bring laughter. In 2016, Dave & Hollie (his wife) founded Wellness Writers and deliver evidence-based Wellness E-newsletters to spread a message of health and happiness to various businesses throughout the US. Dave currently serves as a personal trainer in Tolland as well as a wellness coach and writer for several businesses, gyms and wellness facilities throughout the US.

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