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Overdoing exercise can be fatal: researchers warn of heart attack and stroke risk

Too much exercise can lead to serious heart or brain damage, two new studies have warned.

Researchers by teams in both Germany and Sweden have found that overdoing high-intensive exercise may actually increase your chances of death from a heart attack or stroke. Young men undertaking endurance exercise for more than five hours a week may also increase their risk of developing an irregular heart rhythm which can lead to complications later in life, such as the need for a pacemaker.

Both sets of results from the teams of scientists indicate that more does not necessarily mean better when it comes to the health benefits of exercise, and they additionally raised questions amongst the health community in regards to the benefits of intensity and duration of physical activity at different times of life.

Andrew Marr, the BBC broadcaster and journalist is still recovering from a life-altering stroke he suffered in January 2013. In an interview, Marrr suggested that his stroke was triggered by consistent vigorous exercise on a rowing machine, and said, “I’m frankly lucky to be alive”. He described how he felt the symptoms of his stroke after he went on a rowing machine and “gave it everything I had”. This, and other references to short bursts of intense exercise, suggesting that he was undertaking some very vigorous exercise in the belief that this would benefit his health.

Most health advice focuses on a simple or moderate level of exercise which raises the heart rate and leaves you feeling slightly out of breath. The talk/sing test is a simple way of determining how hard your body is working; if you can talk whilst doing a physical activity, you’re probably exercising at a pace which is good for you, but if you’re too breathless to talk, you should slow down. If you’re able to sing whilst doing physical activity, you’re probably not working hard enough, so pick up the pace!

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