Health Headlines: How much exercise is too much

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Published: Aug. 23, 2023 at 7:52 AM CDT
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (Ivanhoe Newswire) – When it comes to exercise, can you have too much of a good thing? The CDC recommends 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise and two days of muscle strengthening each week, but what about those people who take their workouts to the next level, could that actually have a negative impact on their heart?

“Endurance athletes, you know, the cross-country skiers, swimmers, people who do the marathon and bikers – they’ve seen a slight increase in atrial fibrillation as they get to middle age,” says preventive cardiologist at Baptist Health in Jacksonville, Florida, Dr. Pamela Rama.

Atrial fibrillation, or AFib, is an abnormal heart rhythm. A healthy heart beats 60 to 100 times per minute, but a heart with AFib can beat 140, 170, and even 190 times per minute. New research found that years of heavy training may contribute to an increased risk of developing AFib.

Dr. Rama explains, “The problem with atrial fibrillation is, it puts you at risk for having a stroke because it’s such a disorganized rhythm.”

The reason? Over time, exertion not only strengthens our hearts, but remodels it.

“The atrial fibrillation is generated from the left atrium. So, when you have a remodeling of that, it makes the left atrium a little bit bigger. You might form some scar tissue and it makes them more prone to having atrial fibrillation,” Dr. Rama further explains.

The study published in The Clinical Journal of Sports Medicine found, out of 942 long-time endurance athletes, 20 percent – almost all middle-aged men – had AFib, three percent suffered a stroke and swimmers were at a higher risk. But doctors warn not to overreact – this isn’t an excuse not to exercise.

Dr. Rama adds, “Low to moderate-intensity exercise is always good for you, and actually, it reduces your risk of atrial fibrillation.”

But what this study does suggest – nobody is immune to cardiac concerns, no matter how fit they feel.

So, what can you do? Pay attention to sudden heart palpitations or shortness of breath – especially during exercise – also, if you have unexplained declines in your performance, and keep an eye on your smartwatch for any spikes in your heart rate.

Contributors to this news report include: Marsha Lewis, Producer; Roque Correa, Videographer & Editor.