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Extreme endurance exercise carries risks
June 4th, 2012
12:01 AM ET

Extreme endurance exercise carries risks

The old adage, “all good things in moderation,” may be true, especially when it comes to exercise.

In an article in this month’s Mayo Clinic Proccedings researchers looked at an emerging body of papers that point to the fact that even exercise can have diminishing returns.

The authors surveyed more than 50 different studies that followed athletes who chronically trained and participated in extreme endurance events, such as marathons, ultramarathons, Ironman triathlons, and long-distance bicycle races. The studies found that excessive training and competing can cause cardiovascular damage such as scarring and enlargement of the heart and blood vessels, as well as irregular heart beating.

The paper cited that veteran marathon runners and professional cyclists were five times more likely to have irregular heart beats.

While rare, there have been incidences where runners have actually collapsed from cardiac arrest during long road races.

But the authors were also adamant that these findings should not dissuade people from regular exercise.  Lead author Dr. James O'Keefe, a cardiologist at the Mid America Heart Institute, said, “We want people to understand that this in no way detracts from the importance of exercise.  Physically active people are much happier than their sedentary counterparts. So much so, that they live up to seven years longer.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, adults should get at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise, like walking, five times a week, in addition to two days or more of muscle strengthening activity.

O’Keefe said that many people misunderstand exercise and think more is always better.

He points to his own patients - many are athletes who come in and say they are training for marathons, running several hours a day. O’Keefe tells them that it’s not good orthopedically.

"It’s definitely not good for your heart in the long run. If you want to do it, train up for it, and cross it off your bucket list. This is not a healthy, long-term exercise pattern.”

Rather O'Keefe suggests people do a lot of brisk to moderate exercise like walking, jogging, and swimming.

“You can do light to moderate exercise as long as you want. We’re genetically designed for that kind of activity. We’re just not designed to run 26 miles at a time, or 100, or go on a full distance triathlon for 12 hours as hard as you can go.”


soundoff (101 Responses)
  1. Simon

    I'm not convinced we aren't built for that kind of endurance work – there are surely times when our body's have needed it in the past. Perhaps it's better to say we aren't built to do it all the time.

    June 4, 2012 at 08:39 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Noocrat

      I'm with you. The people of the Tarahumara tribe in Mexico can regularly run 100 miles per day.

      Moreover, it's theorized that at a point in our evolution, we were persistent hunters. Since quadrupeds can't sweat, we would essentially chase them until they needed to slow down to pant.

      June 4, 2012 at 10:33 | Report abuse |
    • dewed

      The Tarahumara don't all run 100 miles each and every day. They also don't live to be 90 regularly.

      June 4, 2012 at 12:42 | Report abuse |
    • Alan S

      Simon: I agree with what you wrote, but I would go further. For the author to say "we weren't built for ..." mischaracterizes evolution. We weren't "built for" anything. We evolved with certain abilities, and there are other abilities we will never have. We have the ability to run marathons and other endurance events. To me, that's 'nuff said.

      Additionally, as a long-distance runner myself, for over 30 years I've been reading the literature about the effect of long-distance running. This is the first suggestion I've ever seen that endurance events can cause cardio-vascular damage. I am skeptical.

      June 4, 2012 at 12:45 | Report abuse |
    • triathlete

      since I was a child I been involved in many competetive sports. swimming, tennis, cycling, running etc. the article is farly accurate, our bodies are amazing machines, but marathons & (full)Ironmans are body beat downs, unless you are making millions doing this races, I have suggest to many folks not to do too many, unless you won't mind reaching 60 with a cane in hand..However, don't be a wimp. Sprint and Olimpic distance triathlons, 10k's, half marathons, are just the perfect distances to keep you in shape.

      The idea of exercise is to the maintain some level of muscle mass as you age, helping you keep your body and mind healthy, not to but yourself in bed crippled from the waist down with pains.

      June 4, 2012 at 12:57 | Report abuse |
    • Mark Glicker

      Agreed. Tried 2 marathons and they were not for me, though 5 and 7 miles runs were fine. Some though, have no problem with the longer distances.

      June 4, 2012 at 13:51 | Report abuse |
    • David S

      Glad to see reporting of this issue. More and more evidence has come to light of the negative effects extreme endurance events may have on your heart.

      For anyone who has not seen information like this before, you aren't paying attention. Just a selection – there is a 2010 article on MSNBC that says much of the same, a 2011 study by Dr Andre La Gerche, and a 2008 stuayd by Andrew Marks. Many more can be found with a little googling.

      I am currently training for my second marathon and have run 6 or 7 half-marathons. I plan to focus on half-marathons in the future and hope to limit my long training runs to 16 or 18 miles. Hopefully that will avoid damage to my heart while still allowing me to enjoy the positive benefits that training for these events provides.

      June 4, 2012 at 13:53 | Report abuse |
    • 8Jah

      The problem with these studies is that they can't separate extreme athletes from obsessive body freaks who exercise for control. The second is a personality disorder well known to result in a variety of health problems

      June 5, 2012 at 02:18 | Report abuse |
  2. Oh my achin' knees

    Look at a slo-mo of a runner. Gravity completely distorts facial tissue, and that's just what you can see. Overdoing it also carries the risk of knee damage.

    Yes, running is basically good for you... but not in the extreme. Health-wise, walking at a fast pace for a longer period of time (unfortunately, not always available) is much better. Calories burned per mile are virtually the same, there is less stress on knees and the body in general and while the cardio effect isn't quite as good, it's still more than enough to maintain good health.

    The first sentence speaks volumes... "All good things in moderation".

    June 4, 2012 at 08:40 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Beth

      Walking does not burn the same amount of calories as running if your walking pace is below a certain threshold ( ~ 12 min/mile pace).

      http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15570150

      "Energy Expenditure of Walking and Running," Medicine & Science in Sport & Exercise, Cameron et al, Dec. 2004.

      Injuries in runners generally come from not the running itself, but improper care of the body by the runner. This can range from improper shoes, running only on hard surfaces, too high mileage, improper rest/recovery, or not having a balanced diet capable of repairing muscles post-run. Again, running itself DOES NOT ruin your knees.

      http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18483739

      http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2556152/

      http://www.npr.org/2011/03/28/134861448/put-those-shoes-on-running-wont-kill-your-knees

      June 4, 2012 at 09:16 | Report abuse |
    • maf5454

      Beth is absolutely correct! I for one have been training for over 30 years, closer to 35. I submit to the reader these simple facts. I will match my body comp, blood chemistry, and mental function against my age group and I don’t believe I’ll come up short. An additional fact although possibly anecdotal is this, I am sick, injured, (read back, and joint problems), and mentally fatigued far less than many people I work with in a wide range of age groups. I believe it is due to a very high level of cardiopulmonary and strength fitness. If I was told my some “medical” authority to stop training hard because it would somehow shorten my life, I’d laugh in their face.

      June 4, 2012 at 11:00 | Report abuse |
    • Johnnyboy

      Beth, also depends on physiology, I have large thighs and small ankles with no arch in my feet. That means when i run I get severe ankle, foot, and knee pain. Been like that my entire life. Also, many folks do not have any control over the surface that they run on, You either have a concrete street or sidewalk or a beat-up track at a local high school.

      June 4, 2012 at 11:10 | Report abuse |
    • thevirginian021

      A recent survey of long-time runners showed that the incidence of knee problems in their later years was actually slightly lower than among sedentary individuals. Running tends to result in stronger knees over the course of a lifetime.

      Beginners sometimes develop temporary knee problems because they try to do too much, too soon. Even intermediate runners can develop runner's knee because they don't include any strengthening exercises in their annual workout program. Common running injuries like runner's knee and ITBS are closely associated with specific muscle weaknesses and imbalances in the quads, thighs, hips and core. The good news is that it's pretty easy to resolve those imbalances and weaknesses through moderate strength training. Max strength is not important for an endurance athlete. Just moderate muscle tone and muscle balance are. Almost anyone can develop that level of muscle fitness through steady and moderate strength exercises, without spending too much time on it.

      There are cases of runners who do not train properly. They pile on the miles too quickly. They race hard too frequently and they never give their bodies any down time. They ignore technique and strength work, such as running drills, stride sets and hill training. These are the people that tend to develop long-lasting knee problems. But usually when people ignore those other components of running fitness, they tend to get the common, less severe injuries, which stops them from doing so much flawed training.

      It's best to be smart about training, by not increasing training volume too quickly and not ignoring strength and technique. If so, then the odds of developing permanent knee problems are lower than among the sedentary populace.

      July 10, 2012 at 10:11 | Report abuse |
  3. Marathon79

    Way to scare people out of exercise. Sure, you shouldn't over-do endurance events but marathon or cycling training is an excellent way for overweight people to get in shape. I lost 50 lbs. during my first marathon training and minor injuries aside, I'm in a much better place five years later.

    June 4, 2012 at 08:43 | Report abuse | Reply
    • The_Mick

      Marathons are a wonderful way for overweight people to wreck their Achilles tendons, feet, knees, and hips and have problems for the rest of their lives. Running in 5K's or 10K's should be MORE than enough. I ran on track/cross country teams in the 60's and I head-coached high school teams from the 80's to '02. I've won marathon medals. I've also had operations. My conclusion is that is was a wise man who once said, "Anyone who runs more than three miles per day does it for reasons other than health."

      June 4, 2012 at 08:59 | Report abuse |
    • gallivanter

      I have to say that you sound like an exception. I run marathons and my running club coaches always say at the start of marathon training season that if anyone here is running a marathon to lose weight -don't do it. On average most people training for marathons do not lose substantial weight and the unseen damage from strain on the heart is real, not to mention joint damage. You obviously feel great so you won't want to hear it, but training for a marathon when you started out 50lbs overweight has likely done some permanent damage. You did and that's awesome and of course you may as well keep going but it would disingenuous to suggest all overweight people should go out an do it.

      June 4, 2012 at 21:20 | Report abuse |
  4. Ian Welch

    The Good Stuff You Do Can’t Outrun the Bad Stuff

    Prior to my surgery last year, almost to the day…. I was under the impression that as long as I balanced the good with the bad I would be fine. If I ate 20 chicken wings and a pitcher of beer for dinner I would go for a long run the next day. If I ate a big steak I would make sure I had a huge salad.

    The problem is that this approach does not work. If it did then my weight would not have gone from 200 to 235 pds in 5 years.

    Let me put it this way. You cannot exercise your way out of chronic disease.

    Unless you are Michael Phelps, burning 10,000 calories a day, you will not be able to exercise off the calories you take in. To really lose weight and reach your ideal body size you have to eat the right foods.

    By eliminating Dairy & Animal Protein and avoiding Oil, you can drastically reduce the amount of fat you take in.

    The point is eat the right stuff, then exercise. You will be amazed by the results.

    John Cloud had a great article in Time Magazine a few years ago, Why Exercise Won’t Make You Thin. “There’s also growing evidence that when it comes to preventing certain diseases, losing weight may be more important than improving cardiovascular health

    Full post: http://wholefed.org/2012/03/14...

    Ian Welch

    Read more: http://healthland.time.com/2012/06/04/extreme-workouts-when-exercise-does-more-harm-than-good/#ixzz1wpTAm5hW

    June 4, 2012 at 09:02 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Johnnyboy

      Are you trying to sell stuff? Everyone's caloric and physical needs are different.

      June 4, 2012 at 11:04 | Report abuse |
    • Ian Welch

      Johnny Boy – You see anything for sale? Not selling anything. Just my opinion, like yours.

      Ian

      June 4, 2012 at 11:33 | Report abuse |
  5. Tim

    The book, "Born To Run", would contradict this statement "We’re just not designed to run 26 miles at a time, or 100, or go on a full distance triathlon for 12 hours as hard as you can go.”

    June 4, 2012 at 09:05 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Billy

      I read that book. Very good read. On a sad not, Caballo Blanco recently died at the young age of 60. He took off for a morning run and was found dead less than a mile from where he started from.

      June 4, 2012 at 10:22 | Report abuse |
    • Billy

      I read that book. Very good read. On a sad note, Caballo Blanco recently died at the young age of 60. He took off for a morning run and was found dead less than a mile from where he started from.

      June 4, 2012 at 10:27 | Report abuse |
  6. patrick j

    You don't have to run. I use the Cybex Arc Cross Trainer, which is specifically designed to avoid injuries and muscle problems. It is even better than an elliptical, and the elliptical is way better than running. I jogged and ran for years, suffered the consequences of ankles, knees, and other problems. With the cross trainer I have a very hard workout twice a week and I sort of cruise the other days, with one day off. Over the past three years I have gradually increased the resistance and the speed, which is very important or else you lose all of the benefits of exercise. I see people who start off great jogging, but then 10 years later they are still jogging the same mileage at the same speed in the same amount of time and there is no benefit whatsoever.

    June 4, 2012 at 09:39 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Johnnyboy

      I like those at the Gym too. I also think that Spinning bikes are effective as well. My Knees ankles and feet are almost always hurting after I walk for a very long distance or when I run. Anything to get me off of the ground I am for it.

      June 4, 2012 at 11:06 | Report abuse |
  7. WhoAteMyBlog

    It's best to discuss exercise with your physician. It is an interesting article, but I believe they are referring to people that over train. - What's sad, though, is that people that need to exercise will use this article as an excuse to not exercise.

    June 4, 2012 at 09:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Christopher

    Our bodies are made to run. Look at the Tarahumara. They run hundreds of miles without even blinking an eye. All these knees problems come from incorrect form.

    June 4, 2012 at 09:54 | Report abuse | Reply
    • matt

      I would guarantee they do blink their eyes.

      June 6, 2012 at 17:50 | Report abuse |
    • Jason

      That would be like saying "everyone can do astrophysics, just look at Stephen Hawking".

      June 7, 2012 at 09:56 | Report abuse |
  9. Steve

    It's difficult to fully discuss a complicated issue in a few paragraphs. The author and doctors quoted suggest that excessive training is not a good thing, but only cites "running for several hours a day" as excessive. Also seems to define training for a marathon as "running for several hours a day." I know lots of marathoners, and am one myself. I don't train this way, and don't know anyone who does.

    I know of runners who have bad knees. I also know of many other people that haven't run a step since childhood who have bad knees. I hear of runners dying while excercising. I also hear of people having cardiac events at work, at bus stops, in their living rooms, and on golf courses.

    So, okay – maybe don't run "for hours a day" – but if you want to be an endurance athlete, don't be frightened off by this sort of news item – or be dissuaded by somebody who "just knows" that you are not designed to do it.

    June 4, 2012 at 10:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Ehhh

    Running is terrible for your joints. There are a lot more benign forms of exercise that get the job done as good as running, and in some cases, better.

    But running does has its pros. It doesn't require a gym membership and you don't have to go anywhere to run. Its certainly better than just sitting around doing nothing.

    June 4, 2012 at 11:26 | Report abuse | Reply
    • No Shoes

      And, you don't even have to wear shoes...........for natural form

      June 4, 2012 at 11:32 | Report abuse |
    • Dave

      Actually there is no better execise to burn calories and we are definately a society that needs to burn some calories. The whole myth about joint damage is such BS. Come talke to the guys in my running group who are in their 60s and have done over 50 marathons. Guess what-
      They get to enjoy life by climbing mountains, hiking, taking treks in the Himalayas etc. How many folks do you know that go use the indoor bike for 1/2 hour are capable of this? Care to compare the physic/ mental capacity of a runner in their sixties vs the dude who goes for a walk in the evening? We don't sensationalist articles to give people and excuse not to run.

      June 4, 2012 at 13:57 | Report abuse |
    • thevirginian021

      Running has actually been shown to be good for your knees, as long as you train properly. This means that an avid runner should include cutback weeks, easy weeks at certain times of the year, a true off-season that involves much lower training volume, strength exercises, technique work and cross training.

      July 10, 2012 at 10:16 | Report abuse |
  11. Tony

    It all boils down to blood chemistry. The heart damage, to use the most serious example, is from localized starvation of the muscle tissue. Your not going to feel it when it happens. We can argue and speculate all day about what is enough and what is too much, but the only real answer comes in the form of new technology that lets us monitor our detailed vitals during extreme exertion. Should be here soon, in the mean time, be careful out there.

    June 4, 2012 at 11:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. irunner

    I am a Marathon Maniac (member # 4940). I know dozens of people like me who run multiple marathons per month year round, although at a pretty slow pace. We train little (if at all) between races. Other than the occasional typical running injury (ITB, Knee, Plantar, etc), we don't let guys like O'Keefe (who probably does not run) stop us. Guys like this were telling us 40 years ago that women should not run at all. The human body is an amazing machine. I never believed when I started running marathons in 1992 that someday I'd be able to run 2 full marathons in 1 week. I just use a lot of common sense, slow down, get 8+ hours of sleep every night and most importantly, don't let anybody tell me what I can or cannot do. Keep running!!

    June 4, 2012 at 11:43 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Dr J

      I know Dr O'Keefe, and he has devoted his life and career to cardiovascular health and fitness. And he does run.

      Why don't you do a scientific survey of all 4939 registered Maniacs who preceded you, and see if the data you collect correlates to this study? Otherwise, all you are doing is using your personal experience to come to a possibly erroneous conclusion, whereas Dr O'Keefe has compiled research for the (hopeful) betterment of the Human Race. which doesn't and shouldn't always have to be a Marathon, apparently.

      June 4, 2012 at 13:53 | Report abuse |
  13. Valentijn

    Great. Next, maybe the Mayo Clinic can pull its head out of its rectum about ME/CFS and stop recommending Graded Exercise Therapy and/or psychiatric commitment. Read the research morons, there's a huge mitochondrial component that makes us very sick in response to exertion!

    Until then, I'll assume everything else they say is either BS or so well-known that self-treating from wikipedia would be just as useful.

    June 4, 2012 at 12:20 | Report abuse | Reply
    • ksmahoney

      Can you explain what mitchonidrial component makes us sick?

      June 4, 2012 at 18:03 | Report abuse |
    • thevirginian021

      What? So you're recommending sedentary lifestyles for everyone? That has clearly been shown to contribute greatly to obesity. There is also a correlation between sedentary lifestyle and poor nutrition habits in certain areas of the country. The combination of sedentary living, bad nutrition and obesity results in an incredible list of bad effects, from high blood pressure to Type II diabetes, early onset of heart disease and all the side effects of those problems (blindness, ED – which is probably why we see so many ED drug commercials these days, and on and on and on).

      July 10, 2012 at 10:20 | Report abuse |
  14. Josh

    Im a personal trainer and i love running. The is nothing wrong with running but like someone said its the people who dont look after their body's that suffer from it. I know this from personal experience, before i became a trainer i used to get problems with my right knee. Found out the surrounding muscles where so tight that it was pulling/ squeezing on the knee at times, making it quite painful. The possibility of people over training these days is quite high, due to people not having a proper understanding of how the body works. The human body is extremely adaptive, adapting to new stimulus in 6 weeks normally, but its using this ability to adapt to build the body up to where you want it to be. You cant go out and pound out miles day in day out if you have no experience in doing so. You have to build up slowly and when you reach peak, drop of and perform below what you need to do. Id recommend anyone who has any questions about running and the such should go to speak to a health and fitness professional. Doctors are fine to speak to but 90% of them dont have the same understanding of how the body reacts to different training stimulus.

    June 4, 2012 at 13:21 | Report abuse | Reply
    • D

      *bodies* Why do people not know how to pluralize anymore?

      June 5, 2012 at 12:30 | Report abuse |
  15. columbus

    "Physically active people are much happier than their sedentary counterparts. So much so, that they live up to seven years longer.”

    Wow, where does this information come from? I know some very active people who are miserable, and also some sedentary people who are quite content in life. I think, as the article tries to articulate, that either extreme is probably unhealthy, but "happiness" is such an esoteric word.

    June 4, 2012 at 14:16 | Report abuse | Reply
    • D

      I found that statement in the articel to be BS because it may be that people may exercise more because they are happier and healthier in the first place. The guy appears to be confusing correlation with causation.

      June 5, 2012 at 12:32 | Report abuse |
    • D

      Ugh ARTICLE.

      June 5, 2012 at 12:32 | Report abuse |
  16. JustAnotherRunner

    Does this "study" now qualify them to be "experts"?? I have done 19 full marathons since January 2011 (23 lifetime so far). I am 51 years young and feel better now after doing 19 full marathons since January 2011 than I have since I did my first 4 marathons in the early to mid 90's. Get plenty of rest, listen to your body, eat right (most of the time), stretch, rotate 2-3 pairs of running shoes (not Walmart specials), retire your shoes when they have 300-400 miles (depending on wear), and have fun! When first starting out, start with 2-3 miles and increase by only 10% per week. Take a day or two off per week, cross train and again...stretch! With all these wonderful "experts" around telling us what we can't do, it is no wonder Americans are so lazy and unhealthy! I see many people aged 60+ running marathons...some are fast, some are not, but they are out there having fun!
    Like irunner said...40 years ago women were told not to run at all. I was told my uterus would be damaged if I ran!!
    I would rather die out on a run than on my couch watching TV, eating chips, drinking soda and being lazy! Go out and live life!

    June 4, 2012 at 14:21 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Couch Potato

      god for you, maybe others would rather die sitting on a couch eating chips..who are you to define what living life is? Because you run, everyone has to run to live life? Different strokes for different folks, big deal, you're 51, you act like that's some sort of milestone based on your year of running. Newsflash: Average life expectancy in this country is 80 ish..and that "average" includes the 30% or so who are obese...so don;t go chest thmping your uber longevity brought on by all your running just yet.

      June 4, 2012 at 15:20 | Report abuse |
    • D

      My father is in his mid 80s and has done next to no physical activity for at least the last 30 years or so.

      June 5, 2012 at 12:34 | Report abuse |
    • matt

      My grandfather lived to be 87. WW2 vet, a really salty guy. He lived off of beer, winston cigarettes, and candy. LOL. Not saying this is healthy, I am saying there is a lot of variability in lifespan regardless of exercise/diet.

      If extreme exercise makes you happy, go for it!

      If.... err... other things make you happy, go for it!

      June 6, 2012 at 17:58 | Report abuse |
  17. Child of (Project) Apollo

    If you think the human body comes without limits, you are sadly mistaken.

    June 4, 2012 at 14:28 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Frank

      Yeah... you're right... There's a limit on what your body can take from lying around and stuffing your face!

      June 4, 2012 at 16:57 | Report abuse |
  18. Tri Harder

    Our bodies clearly ARE designed for what some consider "ultra-endurance" events. More so than any other animal on the planet. 26.2 miles seems like an impossibly long way to run if on average you don't ever run. 30 minutes a day of exercise? That's nothing. To survive, early humans surely had to do more than 30 minutes a day of light to moderate exercise. I think the conveniences of modern society are in some ways bad for us- food is too abundent and too cheap, physically hard activity is no longer required to survive. So we eat too much and are sedentary. The average kid in Kenya runs something like 10,000 miles by the time they are 10 yrs old. Americans need to reset our expectations for what "normal" activity levels should be.

    June 4, 2012 at 14:41 | Report abuse | Reply
    • matt

      I doubt early humans ran around for 30 minutes everyday on average engaged in moderately strenuous exercise. That is burning a lot of calories.... and you couldnt always get a reliable meal back then. Stupid use of calories unless used for hunting/foraging.

      June 6, 2012 at 18:01 | Report abuse |
    • Alifprasetio

      Jimmy Haigh (20:39:59) : Just a quick question for anynoe. Why did they position the global atmospheric CO2 monitor on top of an active volcano???At first glance, Mauna Loa doesn't seem like a good location for a CO2 monitor An active volcano situated on a rather carbon-rich island. Hawai'i is the land of Vog Volcanic smog and lush tropical forests on the eastern part of the Big Island. Although large parts of Hawai'i are actually considered to have a Maritime Desert climate.But the reason is relatively simple There was already an observatory there. The CO2 is sampled from air that is above the Boundary Layer; ostensibly free from surface effects.The Keeling Curve has the longest history of CO2 continuous measurements; but over the past 50 years a network of similar stations has become active. They all show roughly the same pattern of increasing CO2.50 years is not a long time period And the CO2 measurements carry no definitive anthropogenic fingerprints. It's a reasonable assumption that some of the CO2 increase is anthropogenic; but there's no really accurate way to quantify the natural vs. anthropogenic components.

      October 14, 2012 at 01:42 | Report abuse |
  19. Ree

    Gee, if the worst health problems facing the American people were related to our adherence to extreme endurance sports, we should consider ourselves lucky...

    68% of Americans are overweight or obese. More than 60% are not regularly active, according to the CDC

    This article is a non-issue.

    June 4, 2012 at 15:01 | Report abuse | Reply
    • CargoCult

      @Ree – Very well put. I think that most people will use this information to bolster their denial about needing to be more active and health concious. I can just hear it, "see how bad exercise is for you? Now pass me a beer and a smoke"!

      June 4, 2012 at 15:29 | Report abuse |
  20. c s

    Runner's world contains several article about runners becoming sick shortly after a marathon. Anytime the body is put under extreme physical stress, it is prone to become sick. Certainly running a marathon must be considered extreme physical stress. One thing that anyone running a marathon should plan is for an overnight rest period immediately after the race. Or have someone drive you home.

    I had a friend who ran a marathon and then attempted to drive a few hundred miles immediately afterwards. He fell asleep while driving and had a head on collision that killed him and two other people. This tragedy could have been avoided if he had spent the night in a motel at the end of the race.

    June 4, 2012 at 15:15 | Report abuse | Reply
    • D

      Best post on this article. Good practical advise here. Sorry for your loss.

      June 5, 2012 at 12:38 | Report abuse |
  21. Primal 4 Life

    Distance running is one of the worst things you can do to your body. On top of that most distance runners eat a lot of grains, which is even worse for you. You may look the picture of heath but combined you are doing a ton of damage to your body. There is no need whatsoever for prolonged cardio activity for optimum health.

    Not even remotely worth it.

    June 4, 2012 at 15:24 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Run4yourlife

      Primal 4 Life,

      You are precious!! Sit right there and enjoy your sandwich. Put more bacon on it, it is not as bad as they say. You are hilarious!! When you said that grains are bad for you, everyone stopped taking you serious, however, you mean no harm. Oh well, gotta go do a long run!!!!

      June 4, 2012 at 22:22 | Report abuse |
    • matt

      He said distance running.... he didnt say anything bout a few 3-5 milers a week Mr. Angry McDefensiverson.

      June 6, 2012 at 18:03 | Report abuse |
  22. Louis

    The best low impact workout is rowing–upper and lower body exercise and aerobics. Try it and you'll see.

    June 4, 2012 at 15:45 | Report abuse | Reply
    • D

      I know an avid rower who died or heart disease in his 60s. There is no magic out there.

      June 5, 2012 at 12:39 | Report abuse |
    • D

      *of*

      June 5, 2012 at 12:40 | Report abuse |
  23. Tim

    There are arguments for and against this sort of lifestyle. Just do what makes you happy. People who run ultras do it
    because they enjoy it and they are capable of doing it. When I run, I like to think of myself as Forest Gump...."run Forest, run"....especially when he runs to run away his problems and just doesn't want stop.

    Below is a nice abstract sent to me explaining the other side of the story.

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1332256/pdf/brjsmed00005-0006.pdf

    June 4, 2012 at 15:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. Elizabeth

    I love running. I started out running for fitness in college, then again just after I had my son in 2008. I started out with a mile, then 2, then for a couple years i did just 3. Now I've done 2 marathons, 1 50K and a slew of halves and 10ks. Most of my weekday runs are between 3 and 7 miles, then a long run on the weekend. I have had some minor problems with my feet, and when I feel like my heart rate is too high, I slow down. I would agree that alot of these injuries are from people not taking care of themselves.

    Back in college I met someone who ran marathons and he told me, you get to a point where anything less than 5 miles just feels like a waste of time. It's funny but it's true. You might not like it, but if you want to show up to the race healthy, you need to embrace the 3miles and the rest days! Most importantly listen to your body! Many people do not put in the proper training either. When I started out, I started too much too soon, and in the middle of my training program had to take 4 weeks off for a stress fracture in my foot!

    I can't even describe what distance running has given me. More than my health, it has given me a confidence in myself that has affected every aspect of my life. I feel like if I can run a marathon, I can do anything. All I have to do is put the work in and the results will come.

    June 4, 2012 at 16:38 | Report abuse | Reply
    • D

      My opinion is that running is stupid and boring. Even walking, if I don't have another purpose, I spend the whole time asking myself "why am I putting myself through this?" Different strokes.

      June 5, 2012 at 12:42 | Report abuse |
  25. CatastropheCathy

    This is good to know since I've never been an endurance junky. I love my sports but a 15-20 mile bike ride is plenty and a 4 mile run is my stopping point. Almost everyone I know who runs more and trains for a marathon ends up with injuries to their knees or feet anyway.

    June 4, 2012 at 16:41 | Report abuse | Reply
    • FiveLiters

      Also not an endurance junkie here either,but I got into running about 3 weeks ago. I do as much as I can,then walk fast,and pick it up when I catch my breath. I have done a 5k run and a 5 mile run,and I think that is my limit. I don't see how people do a marathon,let alone multiple ones,but if they can,good for them! After sitting in an office for 8 hours/day,I like being outdoors and in motion.

      June 5, 2012 at 12:19 | Report abuse |
  26. Kandi

    I'll have another Margarita and sit by the pool and watch the soccer game between Ecuador and somebody worse than Argentina. That game sucked bear bullets.

    June 4, 2012 at 16:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. Ken

    This article is ridiculous. Running long distances is perfectly safe and healthy, provided you control the variables, which are many. Running surface, proper shoes/warmup, stretching, strength training, and nutrition/rest all factor in to whether your body gets stronger or breaks down. I have run 100 mile weeks for months on end with no ill effects because I paid attention to these factors. I am 46 and have run for over 25 years and my doctor tells me my joints are just fine.

    And to the couch potatoes who are chiming in about how bad endurance activity is, all I have to say is you need to get your lazy butts moving, if not for your own sake but to keep the rest of us healthy people from having to front your healthcare expenses.

    If you want to turn your butt to lard while becoming one with your La-Z-boy, fine by me-but pay for your own bypass.

    June 4, 2012 at 18:46 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Joe

      Come on, Ken. The article specifically says people should not use this as an excuse to not get a healthy amount of exercise, up to and including a marathon now and then. Whether doing more than that is beneficial or detrimental to health is not something that can be determined from personal anecdote. And even if it carries mild or moderate risk or shortening rather than increasing longevity, you can still choose to do it based on other benefits, like enjoyment.

      June 4, 2012 at 21:50 | Report abuse |
    • Seriously....

      you're kind of a penis, Ken.

      June 5, 2012 at 00:29 | Report abuse |
    • D

      Ha ha, Seriously....

      The self-righteousness in the runners' comments is amazing though.

      June 5, 2012 at 12:44 | Report abuse |
    • D

      I am constantly reading articles about people-even relatively young people- dying during marathons, or shortly thereafter. It HAS to be stress on the body. I doubt many runners are getting regular checkups.

      June 5, 2012 at 12:49 | Report abuse |
    • Jon

      I seriously doubt Ken does 100 mile weeks. Most of the people I know who do 100 mile weeks don't come on message boards and brag that they do this.

      June 5, 2012 at 13:52 | Report abuse |
  28. Kristen

    There are so many variables to consider when individuals participate in a long run or bike ride. I completely disagree with the article that says that our bodies are not meant to run 26 miles. I had more injuries (stress fractures, pulled muscles) when I first began running (3-6 miles/day) as a teenager compared to today (7 marathons, several half marathons, 24 hour relay races, day-long mountain bike rides). The reason for my injuries was due to the fact that I was completely clueless on how to treat my body as an athlete (poor nutrition, hydration, equipment, and training). I do believe anyone can run a marathon if you train and prepare yourself properly. Athletes need to pay attention to those minor aches and pains before they become serious. Find the source of those aches (equipment, add strengthening and stretching to your training). Participating in a marathon or ironman can be dangerous if you don't properly plan your hydration and nutrition for the event. Athletes should take this very seriously! The article doesn't mention any of these variables (improper training, nutrition, hydration) that could have caused extra stress on the heart. Long endurance events are extremely rewarding, but we do need to respect our bodies to properly prepare them to participate in these events.

    June 4, 2012 at 18:56 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Jon

      This is exactly right. Kristen, your comments about the other factors/variables need to be added to this article and are things that I don't think a lot of people realize are a large aspect of endurance running.

      If you are going to attempt an endurance event and aren't educated about nutrition, hydration, equipment and training, you shouldn't be out there. It's up to the individual person in the end, however, to say that they are adequately trained and prepared for a long distance event.

      I'm sure running long distances isn't good for you. Just like sitting around watching reality tv for hours upon hours every night probably isn't good for you. Just like drinking a lot isn't good for you. Just like drinking tap water isn't good for you. Just like eating regular, ie non-organic foods isn't good for you..the list goes on and on. We are all going to die sometime. Do what makes you happy.

      June 5, 2012 at 14:25 | Report abuse |
  29. RunnerGirl70

    Yes lets discourage more obese people from getting off the couch and exercising because now running is bad for you......

    June 4, 2012 at 19:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. Run4yourlife

    People have to realize when Doctors put out these articles, they are simply stating their own preferences and say they are basing it on studies that we will never be able to prove or disprove. Doctors who smoke tell their patients that smoking isn't as bad as they say. I once talked to a local orthopedic surgeon in my town that told me he had virtually never dealt with runners when it came to knee and foot problems. I run many marathons and never talk to anyone that has knee issues. Let's face it, when people start a story that challenges the opposite of what we were always taught, more people read it. I am willing to bet that the majority of readers of this article are very sedentary people that want to hear that running is bad for you to make themselves feel good.

    June 4, 2012 at 22:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. bob

    When you train your basically breaking down your body then you rest and rebuild replenish and over time and consistency come back stronger, its very easy get out of that balance and go into over drawl which obviously adds up and leads to injury, it is the most common mistake elite athletes make – athletes in there prime let alone and average fit person 30 – 80 yrs old, obviously marathon training is harder on the body.. If you know how to monitor your body and fitness and realize that recovery and rest is just as important or more so you’ll know when your doing to much

    June 5, 2012 at 01:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. David

    If health can be measured by longevity then there is scientific data that may help here. It turns out that the longest living people in the world are those where frequent but moderate physical activity is totally integrated into their way of life. For more info (esp. where they are living) refer to 'Blue Zones' in Wikipedia. So these people are not weekend warriors running marathons or gym rats spending half their life pushing weights. I also agree that, beyond moderate distances, running is often motivated by factors other than health such as setting and achieving goals. But these other reasons are probably also perfectly fine.

    Also – how about cycling long distances? There is much discussion here about possible injury from running but it seems to me likely that cycling confers many of the health benefits of running without such a high risk on injury. (crashes not withstanding)

    June 5, 2012 at 02:58 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Leon

      Christian Bultmann (14:30:00) :300,000 people is unfottunare but a small number in consideration that millions die every year caused by ill-conceived environmental politics. Regrettably, there is NO connection between ANY symptom of actual global warming (today\'s 1/4 of one degree rise since 1970) and ANY excessive deaths.(Higher deaths from higher temperatures (in summer, even if 1/4 of one degree can actually be tracked into a heat wave death incident) are more than offset by reduced deaths in winter due to higher (average) winter temperatures.More CO2? 12% to 27% MORE plant growth, more food, fuel, fodder, fuel, and feasts. More growing season? Fewer deaths.More area available to plant? Fewer deaths.Sea level rise? Not measureable. Can\'t kill someone from a 2 mm rise!Droughts? No, not from global warming. Tornadoes? No. Fewer tornadoes recently. Fewer hurricanes also. Real world = Less storms recently. Fewer actual deaths. Now, I will grant that KOFI murdered 300,000 people through HIS starvation and DDT-restrictions and conversion of fuel and food into ethanol and higher taxes and higher oil charges and higher food prices and economic losses CAUSED by HIS (and the democrat\'s) fears of AGW ..

      October 14, 2012 at 00:47 | Report abuse |
  33. PoisonTrees

    I will stick with my 5k's!

    June 5, 2012 at 08:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. Mona

    I know people who are addicted to the constant training. They are controlling and suffer from depression. The goals and the high they get helps them deal with life. I think dropping dead is preferable for them than giving up all the training and races.

    June 5, 2012 at 12:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. Endorphin

    If one exercises to optimize good health, then recovery is an important part of that lifestyle. By mixing up workouts to use different muscles, one can achieve overall strength that promotes good physical and mental health and prevents injury from overuse. So choose a variety of favorite exercises – walk, run, bike, yoga, swim, weights, ball sports, fitness classes, .... and experience how they complement each other.

    June 5, 2012 at 13:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. David Ellis

    To the people who write something like:
    "I've run 70 marathons and I'm FINE. This article is BS."
    Anecdotal, personal evidence, on a sample size of 1 is not meaningful. Studies like this should have a population size of hundreds or thousands, and by then, the data is meaningful.
    You can do anything to excess. You can even eat too many vegetables and get sick from it.
    The article is merely pointing out there are diminishing returns to exercise, like everything else.

    June 5, 2012 at 14:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. Caroline

    What about pace? Would jogging cause the same long-term consequences? I jog 1 full marathon and about 3 half marathons a year and never needed surgery or more than 2 months of recovery for injuries.

    June 5, 2012 at 14:56 | Report abuse | Reply
    • george

      from my understanding the rule of thumb is it takes about 6 months for your body to recover from a marathon. and the halfs would be about 3 months. you should only do one marathon per year (tops) and one 1/2. everything else is excessive, as if the training isn't already hard enough on the body!

      June 5, 2012 at 16:34 | Report abuse |
    • george

      if your getting injured your not listening to your body.

      June 5, 2012 at 16:45 | Report abuse |
  38. george

    i'm no doctor but from personal experience with running and other forms of exercise as well as talking with others, it's clear that long distance running has immediate and long term effects that are both healthy and unhealthy. How anyone can argue that is hard for me to get. But immediate damage would be exhaustion, pain and other joint issues. Long term affects are arthritis, heart enlargement and stress fractures (which are very common in distance runners). Long distance running is a drug, a natural high of endorphins. But most of the people I've known to engage with running, almost always get hurt. Most people are just average and don't have the bodies to run far. As well as the smarts to do it the correct way. It's never smart to push yourself, you'll almost always get some injury. And running is an addiction! Everyone knows it.

    June 5, 2012 at 16:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  39. george

    excessive exercising also releases a ton of free radicals which is greatly unhealthy for a human body. look it up, science has proven this to be true. my advice to any runners is do it the right way. because i can guess that 99% of people don't.

    June 5, 2012 at 16:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  40. fstbckadct

    Amazing to see the excuses people put up to agree with the article or avoid the exercise.. I enjoy long distance running, biking, swimming.. Does it have an impact on your body? Sure, but so does putting on 50lbs of fat from NOT exercising and living an unhealthy lifestyle.. I think this "study" and others like it need to be put into perspective.. How many people die from smoking every year? How many people die or have health issues from drinking? I would be curious to see what the ratios of the majority of the population that is overweight, the impact from the extra weight on their joints, hearts, and body in general are in comparison to someone who "puts themself at risk" through long distance/endurance type events that don't fit the prescribed model.. how about this. you die your way, i'll die mine.. but in the process i'll be setting a good example of how to live your life to my children in maintaining a healthly lifestyle.. how about you?

    June 5, 2012 at 22:08 | Report abuse | Reply
  41. runner4life

    I agree with the last comment. Most of the people who make statements like "running is bad for your knees" have never consistently run throughout their life. As a runner do I have some joint pain? Sure I do but so do pitchers have rotator cuff issues. The fact is people who run and physically active people in general have less debilitating arthritis and physical problems than inactive sedentary people. No good deed goes unpunished and there are aches and pains but the high I get from running 14 or 15 miles a day not to mention the intense feeling of satisfaction I have for the rest of the day before I even get to work in the morning is priceless. I will continue to run for the rest of my life until I cant get up anymore. You fat non runners making your comments about us needing canes when we are 60 will never understand and you will be the ones ending up with a cane in one hand while eating your doughnut from your other hand. Bottom line, dont place attention on these articles. They are fickle and purely for entertainment value. Listen to your body, do what you love to do, even if its ultrarunning, triathalons or whatever. Just make sure to eat right and get plenty of rest when you need it.

    June 5, 2012 at 22:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  42. Meg

    If you want to eat a burger, eat a burger. If you want to go for a run, get up and go. Feel like vegging out and watching movies in your pajamas all day? Get a blanket and turn on the T.V. Want to start training for that next 1/2, full, or ultra? Find an appropriate training plan based on your current ability, lace up your shoes, and hit the pavement. I choose to do all of the the above in my life and feel pretty darn healthy, energetic, and fulfilled.

    June 6, 2012 at 01:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  43. bob

    for crying out loud people he said "chronically trained and participated in extreme endurance events" ok a serious marathoners does 125 160 miles a week and the vast majority measure up extremely healthy on practically every measurement there is beyond the average joe. Only the peeps that over train the ones that don’t rest and recover enough get negative effects… the average avid jogger does a fraction of this although they well over estimate their mileage, But but you probably don’t have the years of conditioning to build up to this and are not 132 lbs… its common sense your body will tell you when your doing to much and cant recover fast enough to keep up, learn to monitor your fitness… I must train more or harder is the opposite of what you need and the mistake athletes make when they feel bad and are not improving

    June 6, 2012 at 04:37 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Gil Nodges

      I don't know any serious marathoners (and I know many) who run that much per week.......most run less than half that amount.

      June 6, 2012 at 12:45 | Report abuse |
    • bob

      Gil Nodges@ lol the guys running faster then 2 35 are running that much

      June 6, 2012 at 14:45 | Report abuse |
  44. Lilly

    And to those of you who say "I ran 10 miles every day for the last 30 years and I'm fine!" You are the exception and not the rule. Every single one of my runner friends has a running related health problem. Knee problems seem to be the most common.

    June 6, 2012 at 10:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  45. Lilly

    I also think that there may be some truth to this article. I have sinus tachycardia for no reason at all. My ECG is clean and my heart has the rythm of a metronome. I also have low blood pressure as most runners do.Yet, My resting heart beat never goes under 90bpm. Not even when I'm sleeping. That's right, I have awakened and taken my heart rate. It's usually around 100. My exercising heart rate is usually 170 but it will rise to 200. This wasn't the case before I started running over 5 miles 5 days a week for four years of my life... Could it be a coincidence? Yes. Could it have something to do with stress on my heart? Yes.

    June 6, 2012 at 10:50 | Report abuse | Reply
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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.