Keeping fit helps you to avoid illness and poor health in later life right? Well according to surprising new evidence it may not actually always be the case; in fact it could end up being harmful for some people’s hearts. The latest study published in the PLoS One journal analysed information from six exercise studies involving over 1,600 people who regularly exercise to discover the effects that regular exercise has on the heart.
The results of the research were very surprising, even shocking and confusing the scientists involved. It was revealed that almost one in ten of those tested had adverse reactions from exercise that affected their blood pressure, insulin levels or their cholesterol levels. It was also shown that 7% of these people were negatively affected in two of these areas, putting them at greater risk of heart disease as a result of exercise.
Why does this happen?
The concerning thing about this uncovered information is that there is no clear explanation as to why this small group of the population is being affected in this way. Claude Bouchard, lead author of the study and professor of genetics and nutrition at Louisiana State University suspects that the problem is a genetic one and that those who regularly exercise should have their blood pressure, glucose and cholesterol checked regularly.
Regular aerobic exercise like running and cycling have always been considered important in maintaining heart health, slowing down unhealthy changes to the cardiovascular system that can occur with age. Last year the British Journal of Sports Medicine suggested that the issue lies with those who conduct intense long-lasting endurance training over a number of years that could in fact be damaging their heart. This includes people who regularly train for and take part in serious competitions like marathons, triathlons and iron man competitions.
Their research discovered that 50% of long term endurance runners, some of whom who had been training for over 40 years, showed signs of having some form of heart damage. It is well known that veteran athletes are more likely to show signs of early symptoms of cardiac disease that could lead to a risk of heart attacks. This is not a concern for the kind of person who takes part in a few marathons during their lifetime, however it is a risk to people who have been training hard and for a long time.
Professor Whyte of the British Journal of Sports Medicine suggests that people should not be put off exercise, pointing people towards the vast amount of evidence showing that exercise if beneficial, not just for your heart but your whole body. He states that even in the latest study the most recent research, 10% saw enormous gains in at least one measure of heart disease risk, with some improving by up to 50%. There will always be a small number of people with underlying health problems that become problematic as a result of activity. The benefits of aerobic exercise still far outweigh the risk.
Gareth writes on a number of health and fitness topics on behalf of private healthcare provider AXA PPP healthcare