There is a risk to benefit ratio associated with everything. Running and endurance events are not different.

We lie in a society though that if something is good for you, then more of it must be better for you.

From 1982 to 2012 obesity in America has tripled. However marathon participants have increased by 20 times.

This can only mean on thing.

We have a lot less healthy people doing a lot more exercise than they are designed to do. We were in no way designed to run distances of 26 miles. Or pound our heart through hours of hard exercise completing a triathlon or any other endurance event.

We were designed to be active and walk regularly with intermittent burst of running.

Do not get confused here and think exercise is not important. Exercise is one of the healthiest things that you can do if you want to life a long and healthy life. Exercise is a must but there is a point of diminished returns and people need to know and understand this.

Diminished returns

There was a study that followed 50,000 people from the Cooper clinic with a follow up of 20 years. They found that runners had a 19% lower risk of death than non-runners. Those runners that were running at moderate distance, frequency and speed came out with the best results. The people running 2-5 times a week running at a speed of 10 minute miles and running distances of between 5-20 miles a week got the best results.

So when you run faster, longer and more often you are not getting any positive results. You are in fact causing damage to your body. The more you do the closer you get in respect of cardiovascular health to those that do no exercise.

Studies have shown that among 50% of all people tested after completing a marathon had elevated levels of troponin. Troponin is what is measured after you have had a heart attack to see if you have had heart damage. This shows that 50% of those who have completed a marathon have inflicted heart damage upon themselves.

Endurance races are killing you

Any long endurance events such as that of the Ironman, Triathlons, Marathons. Or even running more than 20 miles a week has been found to cause structural changes to the heart and elevates cardiac inflammatory-biomarkers.

Your heart can take up to a week to fully recover after a tough endurance event. If it is given the opportunity to rest that is. However today very few people do give their heart the opportunity to fully recover!

In today’s world where we are constantly trying to push our body to the limit to see how much we can achieve. Feet’s such as 26 marathons in 26 days or something similar have become very popular. That is discounting the 12 – 18 months that person has spent training to prepare for such an event. Even repeated triathlons throughout the year. This constant endurance training over weeks, months and years can lead to serious heart issues.

Issues such as

  1. atrial fibrosis - which is the thickening and scarring of the heart’s connective tissue
  2. Interventricular septum - which means holes in the heart,
  3. Increased risk of developing atrial and ventricular arrhythmias
  4. Calcium build up in the arteries - increasing the potential for plaque formation and as a result heart attack.

Dr. James O’Keefe from Mid America Heart Institute at Saint Luke’s Hospital in Kansas has done research. evidence from this research has shown that heart rhythm abnormalities as a result of extreme endurance sports has been linked with a 5 fold increase in serious heart problems.

The risk of this heart damage increases in middle age and beyond.

Endurance exercise does not just effect you heart. It also has negative effect on your skin, your sleep and your body composition.

More does not mean better.


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