I’m home sick today with what is hopefully my last bad cold before summer. I’ve mentioned that I recently started a new job, so I most likely picked it up there (I usually get sick when I work in a new environment). This isn’t just any old cold. Nope it’s a doosey: extreme fatigue and conjestion.
So my mind has been thinking about health-related topics lately. And by now you might have heard that an autopsy has indicated that Micah True, the well known ultra runner known as “Cabello Blanco” (made famous by Born To Run), died of heart disease, more specifically cardiomyopathy, which results in an enlarged heart.
There are so many naysayers out there that are quick to tell us how bad running is for us. How many of us have had a friend, family member, or even doctor tell us that running will ruin our knees, feet, joints, etc. (if they do, kindly refer them to this article)
And now I am sure there will be plenty more out there eager to say that running will damage our hearts.
But even rational semi-intelligent people can understand that there are many factors that lead to heart disease and lifestyle is only one of them, right? Micah True led an extremely healthy lifestyle, didn’t smoke, ate healthy food and still died of heart disease. His DNA was most likely the culprit…most likely.
I went off in search of any research on whether too much exercise can actually harm your health just to be sure (and also to be armed with information when the next naysayer told me I should stop running…). I’ll save you the academic jargon and summarize of peer-reviewed articles I found on the UVa journal database: yes, there is evidence–albeit it’s not the most rigorous–that extreme endurance training over a lifetime could perhaps lead to fibrosis or “diffuse scarring” in the heart.
A recent New York Times article, When Exercise is Too Much of a Good Thing, sums up the consequences of distance running, based on what we know, nicely:
“How many people are going to join the 100 Marathon club” or undertake a comparable amount of training? he asked. “Not many. Too much exercise has not been a big problem in America. Most people just run to stay in shape, and for them, the evidence is quite strong that endurance exercise is good” for the heart, he said.
Dr. Nattel agrees. “There is no doubt that exercise in general is very good for heart health,” he said. But the emerging science does suggest that there may be a threshold of distance, intensity or duration beyond which exercise can have undesirable effects.”
So I think it’s still safe for us “amateurs” who run for fun and run a few long distance races (marathons or farther) per year. For those that run 100+ miles a week for years and years? I think the jury is still out. Unfortunately, I think news of Micah True’s cause of death is going to add fuel to the fire and we’re just going to hear more now about how running is bad for us.
Have you come across the “naysayers” that tell you to stop running because it is bad for you?
-my parents actually don’t support my running, which has been really tough for me. They tell me that it is bad for me 😦