There is increasing concern about the health risks of doing endurance aerobic activities such as long distance running, especially marathons. Recent studies by the Mayo Clinic have shown that many endurance athletes have suffered damage to their hearts by participating in endurance sports over a long period of time and have developed a buildup of scar tissue.
The incidence of scar tissue appears to be related to athletes who do long distance running or repeated excessive exercise over a period of time. The accumulation of the scar tissue on the heart can lead to a hardening of the heart muscle muscles, a higher risk of atrial fibrillation and arrhythmias, and early aging of the heart.
In the Mayo Clinic study, over 10% of the marathon runners tested had developed myocardial fibrosis. This heart damage suffered by elite athletes puts a new light on how much exercise is necessary without doing damage to your health. In the past, it was thought that the more exercise someone does, the better it would be for their conditioning and health.
There have been some deaths of marathon and ultra marathon runners who were discovered to have suffered from enlarged hearts and arrthymia, after an autopsy was done. Micah True, who was an ultra marathon runner and had a training regimen that included running 50 to 100 miles, died of an episode of arrhythmia. After an autopsy was done, the results showed that True had scar tissue and an enlarged heart.
While there are no set parameters for how much exercise is too much, the doctors doing the survey suggested to reduce your endurance activities. If you are a marathon runner, the doctors recommended doing less that five marathons a year and reduce the training distances that you train every week.
If you participate in endurance fitness activities, you don’t have to abandon your regimen, but try and cut back on your weekly amount of training. Make sure you have time to recuperate from your conditioning.
If you are just starting out on an exercise plan, your goal should be to get a good workout that will boost your metabolism and won’t put undue stress on your body. Spending twenty minutes on a workout is all you need as long as you increase your heartrate and the workout is mildly strenuous. A walking program is a great way to start.
While most endurance athletes are in far better shape than a couch potato, the key to a healthy exercise program seems to be moderation. You don’t need to go to excesses to keep your body in peak condition. Sometimes less is better.