In a recent scientific statement from Oakland University, researchers found that extreme endurance exercise — such as participation in marathons and triathlons for people who aren’t accustomed to high-intensity exercise — can raise the risk of sudden cardiac arrest, atrial fibrillation (a heart rhythm disorder) or heart attacks.
They suggest that a slow, steady increase in exercise intensity is best for heart health.
The study is published in Circulation. One author is Barry A. Franklin, Ph.D., the chair of the writing committee for the new Scientific Statement.
Aerobic exercises are activities in which the large muscles move in a rhythmic manner for a sustained time.
They can be done at low intensity or high intensity and include walking, brisk walking, running, bicycling, swimming and many others.
There is no question that moderate to vigorous physical activity is beneficial to overall heart health.
However, like medicine, it is possible to underdose and overdose on exercise — more is not always better and can lead to cardiac events, particularly when performed by inactive, unfit, people with known or undiagnosed heart disease.
In the study, the team reviewed more than 300 scientific studies. They found that, for the vast majority of people, the benefits of exercise and improving physical fitness outweigh the risks.
Physically active people, such as regular walkers, have up to a 50% lower risk of heart attack and sudden cardiac death. However, the committee also identified potential risks with intense exercise training.
One recent study found that the risk of sudden cardiac death or heart attack is low among people participating in high-intensity exercises such as marathons and triathlons.
However, over time, the risk of heart attack or sudden cardiac death among male marathon participants has risen.
Among participants in triathlons, almost 40% of cardiac events occurred in first-time participants, indicating that inadequate training or underlying heart problems may be involved.
For people who want to become more active, the team suggests that most people can start a light program of exercise and build up slowly to a moderate to a vigorous exercise regimen.
In addition, people with known heart disease (such as a previous heart attack, bypass surgery or angioplasty) should get their doctor’s approval prior to starting an exercise program.
If you care about heart health, please read studies about a common cause of high blood pressure, heart attacks, diabetes and findings of a surprising cause of abnormal heart rhythm.
For more information about heart disease prevention and treatment, please see recent studies about this common nutrient may benefit people with heart failure and results showing that this hormone may reduce irregular heartbeat, inflammation.
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