Can You Exercise Too Much? New Study Says Yes

By Stephen T. Sinatra, M.D., F.A.C.C., F.A.C.N., C.N.S., C.B.T.

It may come as a surprise, but a new study from Denmark indicates that an all-out jogger has about the same longevity prospects as a couch potato. As part of the Copenhagen City Heart Study, Danish researchers followed 1,100 joggers and nearly 4,000 non-joggers since 2001; they compared how joggers’ intensity and frequency of activity stacked up against inactive people, in terms of how long each group tends to live. In other words, they tried to pinpoint what the ideal dose of jogging – an activity that, in general, contributes to longevity – is.

What they determined: Compared to individuals who are sedentary, 1-2.4 hours of jogging per week achieves the lowest mortality rate, with an optimal frequency of 2-3 times per week. The best pace: slow, light jogging.

After crunching their numbers, the researchers determined that light and moderate joggers have a lower death rate than sedentary non-joggers, but strenuous joggers and physically inactive people have a rate that, statistically, is not different.

 My Viewpoint: No surprise here for me. I have always preached to my patients that either too much or too little exercise puts them at greater risk of having heart attacks. I have had cardiac patients pursue an overly-strenuous jogging program – against my advice – and a number of them experienced heart attacks. A few of them died as a result.

 What This Means to You: Researchers don’t know the precise mechanisms as to why excessively strenuous exercise adversely affects longevity; however, it is logical that stress on the body can be too much in individual cases.

 My Recommendation: Less often works better than more; the key thing is to be consistent. If you haven’t exercised for many years, it is best to consult with your doctor before you jump into a jogging or gym program. I have always told my patients to walk or dance, and, if possible, add in some yoga training.


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