Can Too Much Cardio Hurt Your Heart?

jogger-303542-mThe vast majority of Americans simply do not exercise enough. We all know that, right? But the good news is, more and more people are realizing this and looking to make a change. And how do most people change? Well, it seems the overwhelming trend is to beging programs like Couch-to-5K (a great program we used to get started, actually) and to cardio until you drop.

Now inherently, there’s nothing wrong with cardio. It’s good for you, although arguably not the end all, be all.


However, long races are getting more and more popular, and marathons are making most fit people’s bucket lists. As these cardio warriors get the bug, they begin running more and more, longer and longer distances.

It’s easy to get obsessed with it. I get it.

However, we need to remember why we are doing this in the first place. We want to:

  • Look better
  • Increase the quality of life
  • Stay healthy so we live longer

It’s that 3rd point that I want to focus on. How does exercise help us live longer? Well, it’s no secret that there’s an issue in the US with heart disease. And the idea is that all that cardio is going to strengthen our hearts and help them keep beating longer.

Can Too Much Cardio Damage Your Heart?

But what if that were wrong? What if those 10Ks and marathons were actually overkill? What if they were actually having the reverse affect and were damaging our hearts?

Well, studies like this one seem to indicate that may be the case. Marathons can actually increase cardiac enzymes, reduce right ventricular function, and scar the heart. Or at least, that’s what researchers are thinking.

Is There a Better Option?

I think it’s becoming more and more clear that interval training is a better option. By running sprints, you elevate your heart rate more, but for shorter periods of time. It keeps fat burning longer, builds more muscle, but doesn’t keep your heart in constant strain.

Not to mention, it takes less time.

Should You Be Worried as a Runner?

This isn’t meant to scare you. The average runner likely doesn’t need to worry too much about it. Training for a 5K probably isn’t going to hurt you. But if you get bit by that runners bug and you find yourself running 40 or 50 miles a week, well, you might consider changing things up.


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