When exercise does more harm than good

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  • #9949
    George Johnston

    I am new to this site (just read your excellent book) so apologies if this has been asked before … but what is your perspective on various studies that seem to conclude that longevity is U shaped with regard to exercise and over a couple hours a week of moderate exercise is as unhealthy as being sedentary? (e.g., this article: http://healthland.time.com/2012/06/04/extreme-workouts-when-exercise-does-more-harm-than-good/?iid=hl-main-lede).

    I was very disconcerted to read this, but have also read that other studies are contradictory (longevity increases with exercise) and that the extreme athletes tend to be extreme/high risk in other ways that can lead to premature death and hence distort the statistics. But anecdotally I have a friend marathoner who almost died recently from atrial fibrillation, which I then found out is 5 times more common for marathoners!

    I am really looking forward to embarking on your more scientific approach to training for the long-duration sports I love but hadn’t considered this whole thing might not be healthy! Thanks.

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    Anonymous on #9952

    More than a couple hours a week is unhealthy? It sounds like a brilliant marketing plan for something. Not sure what, but something.

    I haven’t read any such studies, but how can it be narrowed down to one factor? What about diet, alcohol, smoking,, stress, etc.

    Two hours a week is pretty much sedentary anyway. It doesn’t seem like much of a distinction.


    Anonymous on #9954


    Did you read this sentence?

    No matter how much they ran, however, they didn’t do worse than non-runners when it came to longevity, Lavie says.

    Exercise, like most things when taken to an extreme is not a healthy pursuit. What we know about the limits of human endurance is that 25+ hours of training a week is nearing the human capacity. Well that is a long way from the 2 hours the study says may give some health benefits. There is a lot of middle ground there.

    Consider the quality of life rather than just the quantity of life.


    George Johnston on #9994

    Thanks for your thoughtful responses. It does seem that the problem with all these longevity studies is that there are so many factors and so much middle ground that the conclusions are highly questionable. e.g., I also read that runners tend to spend more time sitting the rest of the time contra the guideline to get up and move every 20 minutes! I suspect that your emphasis on avoiding over-training is probably as key to overall health/longevity as it is to fitness.

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