Too Much Exercise is Unhealthy

The finish line
Credit: Pixabay image by Nemo

One time I was at a party, surrounded by people around my own age. However, one couple looked about 10 to 15 years older than everyone else, even though they graduated from high school the exact same time as the rest of us.

This man and woman looked gaunt. Their faces were drawn and their skin was prematurely wrinkled. As marathoners, they should have been the picture of health. But not judging by their appearances.

Why did this couple, more health conscious than the average person, look so sickly?

Excess exercise places a great strain on our body. We are not built to endlessly push ourselves to run. Marathon training, in particular, carries serious health risks, despite the widespread perception that this grueling endurance test is good for us.

Leading up to the big day of the race, an elite runner may log between 100 to 140 miles a week, according to Runner's World. Less experienced racers would average less though.

The couple we encountered at this gathering are very good runners who push themselves hard. They're also careful about what they eat, as they want to stay lean and competitive. Running has clearly become such a huge part of their lives, that I believe they'd be greatly distressed if someone told them they had to stop.

But the big question is why two otherwise healthy, middle-aged people, in top physical shape, look so unwell?

I've also personally known two long-distance runners who've developed cancer at very young ages, despite the fact they were in very good physical shape. Although these are only anecdotal reports, and perhaps coincidental, they occurred in my relatively small circle of friends and acquaintances.

At the very least, these cases dispel the notion that exhaustive workouts inoculate us from serious illness.

Marathon running is increasingly popular
Credit: Pixabay image by geralt

Marathon Training Stresses the Body

A full marathon is about 26 miles. In order to reach the finish line, a runner has to build up their endurance with weeks of intense training, as I mentioned above. At the minimum, someone would need to average about 40 miles a week, over the course of five to six weeks, according to an authority interviewed by the Huffington Post.

However, it's becoming increasingly clear that working out at this pace can create inflammation throughout the body. Alternative medical practitioners, in general, agree that inflammation sets the stage for disease.

It's now known that marathoners place themselves at increased risk for suffering a heart attack, especially during the day of the race. Unfortunately, it's not unheard of for marathoners to collapse and die during exercise, or even in the hours following a race.

Superhuman running regimens also cause silent damage to the heart muscle. Researchers at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, New York have found that physically punishing feats, such as marathons, may damage the heart and arteries. These changes, or scars, may be temporary or permanent.

Exercise till you drop
Credit: Pixabay image by fawndesign

Runners and Marathoners Who've Had Heart Attacks

We hear repeated reports of relatively young marathoners who suffer fatal cardiac arrest, either during training, while running a race or shortly thereafter. When this happens, it inevitably generates headlines, since it's so unexpected.

In April of 2014, the running world was stunned when three deaths happened in one weekend, in different parts of the world. One fatality occurred in following the London Marathon, an annual event in which another runner had died just a few years earlier.

Also, over that April weekend, two more deaths happened in North Carolina, during a half marathon. These men were relatively young, aged 31 and 35.

A number of celebrity runners have also suffered fatal heart attacks. Perhaps the best known was Jim Fixx, who shocked the world when he suffered a fatal heart attack, during a jog. His death in 1984 was most unexpected, as he was considered a health authority whom had written a best seller called The Complete Book of Running.

His example helped launch a fitness craze that continues to this day.