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Can Too Much Exercise Be Harmful?

Chronic Long-Distance Training May Harm the Heart; Moderate Running Linked With Lower Death Risk, Studies Find

Exercise Studies: Perspectives continued...

Endurance athletes who train chronically for competitions should ''have ongoing discussions with their physician about their health and take symptoms seriously," Baggish says

High-endurance exercise, done chronically, may come with a price, says Ravi Dave, MD, a cardiologist at UCLA Medical Center, Santa Monica. He also reviewed the findings.

"Everything in life, whether taking vitamin C, eating bananas, or exercising, has safe upper-dose limits," Dave says.

He says he probably won't discourage those who want to run a half or full marathon once or twice a year from doing so, if they are in shape and training for it.

"I'm more concerned about those who do very frequent high-endurance training for long periods of time, like the Ironman. Those are the ones I worry about," he says.

The percentage of people in the population who fit that description, he says, is very low.

Exercise Prescriptions

Strive for healthier patterns of exercise, O'Keefe suggests. "Things like gardening, walking, jogging, swimming, yoga," he says. "These are all ideal forms of exercise."

Pay attention to intensity. You can take a leisurely all-day bike ride, he says.

"Even a century (100-mile) bike ride you can do safely if you don't hammer it." He encourages rest breaks.

Lavie concedes that some athletes love the competition and won't give up the long, grueling events. He encourages people to cross train, mixing in several forms of exercise.

Runners should consider fitting in some lower-impact exercise such as swimming, biking, or light weight lifting, he says.

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