Does Your Heart Need a Rest?

Monday morning I had an appointment with my DR.  She knows that I’m a big runner and she mentioned something that I found very odd.

She said she read an article in Redbook entitled  What Cardiologists Tell Their Friends.  One of the things was that repeated excessive effort can overstretch the heart muscle causing micro-size tears – damage that is often seen in marathon runners.

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She said that the heart is a muscle like any other muscle and shouldn’t be worked every day.

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In my mind, this goes against everything I’ve ever heard!!!

I’m not sure how I feel about the article and my DR’s thoughts on this subject – I like to workout at an intense level every day and can’t wrap my head around the fact that this could be damaging the very muscle I’m trying to make stronger.

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Have you ever heard anything like this?
What do you think – is running doing more damage than good?

I have no plans to quit running and pushing myself – it makes me feel good to workout hard almost every day!!

Happy Wednesday!

Kim

98 thoughts on “Does Your Heart Need a Rest?”

  1. It kind of makes sense…. though that doesn’t mean we have to like it! But think of it this way – would you rather “wear out” your heart by exercising and being healthy, or by eating 6 bags of potato chips a day and being obese?

    The unfortunate truth is that no one “get out alive,” so you might as well live your life the way YOU want to!

    1. Diana, I sort of think I do a nice mix of both – I still like the chips (not 6 bags a day though!).
      And, I totally agree – life is to be enjoyed which is why I will keep running and keep enjoying my happy hours!!
      Kim recently posted…Does Your Heart Need a Rest?My Profile

  2. I haven’t heard of this in regard to tears in the heart but I have heard about excessive aerobic exercise causing oxidative stress, ie: production of free radicals that break down our cells and potentially result in cancer, heart failure, etc.
    I agree though that the benefits of exercise far outweigh the risks.
    Marcia recently posted…Currently and a WinnerMy Profile

  3. I have read about this before from other reputable sources. I tend to feel there is some merit to this notion. We were meant to be a mobile species, but I don’t feel that marathon running is truly a level of activity that is in the zone of “within reason” and fits more the bill of “challenging the body”, if that makes sense? Of course I am here training for another full marathon, but I view it more as an exception in my life. I prefer to be a runner for life which means normally hanging out in the reasonable mileage/exertion zone on a regular basis and only now and then training for something more extreme. Although I am a big fan of endurance sports … it’s a juxtaposition of thought that I often wrestle with :)
    Christina recently posted…Running updates, an organized runner, the Fossil Sasha bagMy Profile

  4. Hmmm I don’t know how I feel about the article. I have a client that is in the health and wellness industry and they say that the media misinterprets new medical research ALL THE TIME because the mass population wants to believe they don’t need to eat right or exercise — the media just feeds into that.

    For example, last year a new report came out that says there is a very small set of people who *may* benefit from a diet that has more salt than average in it. The media blew the report up and said NEW RESEARCH SAYS YOU DON’T NEED TO REDUCE YOUR SALT INTAKE! EAT ALL THE SALT YOU WANT! It seems like your doctor would be someone to trust, but I am a skeptic! And of course I don’t want to give up running :)
    Kristina @ Blog About Running recently posted…In Case You Didn’t KnowMy Profile

    1. Kristina, I agree that the media misinterprets stuff pretty often. I never paid any attention to the salt thing – I don’t tend to get wrapped up in these things usually but since my DR is the one who told me about this I thought I would check it out.
      And, I don’t plan to give up any of my running either!!
      Kim recently posted…Does Your Heart Need a Rest?My Profile

  5. Interesting article.
    I think I would be concern if results from your current visit suggested something but if it works for you and you are stronger every day, then why not?
    I think medical advice should always be taken with a grain of salt.
    I also believe that we should take rest days! Our bodies do need to recover!
    Heather @ Run Like a G! recently posted…Weekend Getaway!My Profile

  6. The first time I had heard that running (endurance running) could do anything other than good for the heart was when I had an xray done at the time of my blood clot. My heart was actually enlarged, something I’d never ever had mentioned previously. The doctor, an avid runner and iron man, said that endurance runners can have enlarged hearts AND murmurs. Funny, his son, also a doctor I see mentioned he didn’t think I needed to be running more than 10 miles a week! After that, it starts to do more damage is what he suggested. Of course, ever time he sees me it’s for a running injury LOL

    1. Heather, the article I linked mentioned limiting miles to like your DR said – impossible if you want to train for anything!!!
      Funny about only seeing that DR because of running injuries – I’m sure he thinks the same thing every time:)
      Kim recently posted…Does Your Heart Need a Rest?My Profile

  7. This is very interesting. I have had people (who know I am a runner) send me articles referencing this type of thing before but I haven’t paid too much attention to them. You have got me thinking though, it kinda makes sense. We know what happens to our legs muscules when we don’t give them a “rest” day so I guess the same can be true for our hearts…

  8. I’ve never heard that before but it definitely makes me wonder! Also, how much is too much. I don’t train at a marathon level but sometimes I do really intense workouts. I guess my heart is getting a little bit more of a rest at the moment as I have scaled back my intensity greatly. This is really interesting!
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  9. I don’t know about this to be honest…we are always hearing stuff like “running is bad for you” from people that sit on their asses all day. Sure you can overdo it like anything else…but to say that exercising daily is a bad thing is BS, I don’t care what the experts say. Just listen to your body and take it easy when you need to and go hard when you can.
    Mike @ 3 Cheap Runners recently posted…Jackson, You Are An Ironkid!My Profile

  10. Well I’m not a cardiologist but I do believe that the heart is not a muscle LIKE EVERY OTHER MUSCLE! It is not smooth or striated muscle, it is CARDIAC muscle, striated with interconnected fibers. My concern with long distance runners relates more to cardiac enlargement over time, and the potential for heart failure. That does happen, but is rare.

    The heart never really “rests” unless it is RIP.

    I will look into this more.
    Dr. J recently posted…The Lesson of ‘Doubly Labeled Water’: We Underestimate What We Eat and Overestimate Our ActivityMy Profile

  11. How hard does your heart really work when you run? My lungs get a workout no question about that so if I am damaging them by working too hard I need to know. If you keep hydrated so your blood doesn’t get super thick I would think your fine.
    Cindy recently posted…Leave the legs ALONE!My Profile

  12. This has been pretty big news lately and it makes me feel glad that I often have rest days. I don’t run more than four times a week. One of my friends recently had a visit with her cardiologist and he warned her about running too long too often. You can get too much of a good thing apparently.
    Char recently posted…Philosophy and Snap WeddingsMy Profile

  13. I have heard that people who do a lot of marathons can have health issues — it all comes to listening to your body, training smart (including recovering smart!), and listening to your doctor — who hopefully is not getting her medical advice from Redbook. ;-)
    Coco recently posted…Garden Vegetable Gazpacho RecipeMy Profile

    1. Coco, I agree that there is a lot to be said for listening to our bodies and truing smart!!
      My DR said that she orders the magazines for her waiting room and then takes them home to read when the new issues come in – that is when she read this particular article.
      Kim recently posted…Does Your Heart Need a Rest?My Profile

  14. I hate to tell you this but I have heard that. The same with your abs (I know that some people work that every day as well). Having high blood pressure and having a family with heart disease I’ve done a lot of research. It really isn’t good for your heart to be put into the “red zone” on a daily basis according to the research I’ve done. Here’s a link for you:

    http://www.active.com/health/articles/why-too-much-running-is-bad-for-your-health
    Carla recently posted…Making Races Fit Your Training PlanMy Profile

      1. The thing with all these studies, Kim, is that they are based on averages. We all have different bodies. For all we know your heart could be very well conditioned to this. You’ve been working out like this for a long time! If you’re doctor mentioned this more in passing because she knows how hard you work out, I’m not sure I’d think too much about it. If there was a bigger conversation around it well….
        Carla recently posted…Making Races Fit Your Training PlanMy Profile

  15. I guess it makes a little bit of sense if you compare it to pounding/overuse of other muscles that can cause damage. But, it’s not like you were sedentary one day and trying to run 15 hard miles the next. Keep doing what you are doing. Your dedication is inspiring!
    Mo at Mocadeaux recently posted…Girlfriends and GazpachoMy Profile

  16. Working out every day and marathon running are not the same thing. The article mentions women who log 20-25 miles a week, then leaps into discussing marathon runners, who are typically logging more miles than that a week. So it’s like they are not even comparing or discussing the same group of people.

    The same article urges us not to throw surprise parties, and passed it off as health advice, so I pretty much dismissed the entire thing, to be honest!
    *StrongNewMe* recently posted…No ExcusesMy Profile

  17. I think I remember reading something like this a few years ago about running. Didn’t agree then and I don’t now. And every time I go to the doc for a check up or whatever I’m convinced I’m right. Keep doing what we’re doing :)
    jill conyers recently posted…Celebrating 21 YearsMy Profile

  18. I have heard of this from my hairdresser who is a body builder. Girl won for our province. Whoot!
    Anyways, she said that you can work out every day but you have to be mindful that everything exhausts. Like you can’t push yourself over the limits day in and day out. The body needs rest.
    This isn’t an excuse though to all the people who live sedentary lifestyles. I think that you can be healthy by doing exercise in moderation….I’m not an expert.
    I think that you need to keep the body pumping but at the same time, you also have to be kind to it.
    Kimberly recently posted…In Two Hours, It Will Be 4 a.m.My Profile

  19. Ok. I’m thinking…I know it’s often recommended that you work out a few days and rest a couple of days. I’m wondering if this could be the reason. But you take like one day off right? And I’d like to think that your body is very used to this routine so ….in other words, I have no idea what she’s talking about! Hahaha. I actually said “what?” after I read what she said and then it was funny to see your image of Jackie Chan. Hahaha! Some think I’m crazy when I say this but I just don’t think most medical doctors have all their marbles because much of what they learn in medical school is how to gives us drugs and cure symptoms. It’s like a rare gem to hear words from them concerning natural approaches like healthy diet and exercise at times.
    Brittnei recently posted…Self EvaluationMy Profile

    1. Brittnei, I agree – I tend to take a lot of stuff that Drs say with a grain of salt!!
      And, you are right – my body is used to what I do and seems to handle it just fine so I don’t have plans to change anything right now.
      Kim recently posted…Does Your Heart Need a Rest?My Profile

  20. I have heard this before, but I also think it has something to do with intensity. You shouldn’t be going all out every day, but you can exercise on rest days like walking.
    Lori recently posted…UpdatingMy Profile

  21. omg, so a total WTF moment. seriously? it’s really sad because it’s doctors and studies like THESE that give people the excuse to not exercise. i admit i’m more OCD than it than necessary to be ‘healthy’ but at the same time i’ll def bet your heart and my heart is much healthier than the masses. annnnd my sanity hinges on my running….so take that doctor!

    1. HaHa, Cait – that is pretty much what I thought the other day, too. I think when she said that an obese woman sitting on the coach all day might have a healthier heart I nearly fell off the table!! I’m sure that there are some runners that end up with heart issues but I can’t imagine that running is the sole cause!! i will probably do a bit more research just to see what else is out there on the subject.
      Kim recently posted…“It Walked Off”My Profile

  22. Well, my ART chiro is a triathlete himself and he specializes in athletes & performance with his practice, and even HE says endurance sports aren’t always good for your heart, especially w/out proper nutrition & care. Obviously he’s not a cardiologist or an MD but he does have a medical degree and he’s a very smart man.
    jan recently posted…Random Cell Phone PicturesMy Profile

  23. This makes sense to me, and I honestly have wondered if you may in fact be doing some harm with how much you push every day. I think of it as adding ‘stress’ to your heart- and yes, in a good way! But it’s stress nonetheless… and that kind of stress on a muscle can wreak damage without the rest in between to recover.

    Perhaps it’s worth a thought? Maybe you can focus on weights every other day and cardio in between? You know fitness far better than I do- Kim! Just worried you may be doing more harm than good- and that would be horrible, with all your amazing efforts in your fitness lifestyle!

    Hoping you can decide what’s best, my friend!
    Chris Carter recently posted…The Best Marriage Resources for Newlyweds and Seasoned Spouses.My Profile

    1. Chris, I always think the stress from working out helps negate some of the other stress in my life:)
      I actually haven’t worked out since Thursday (other than my 44s) so that has to count for something – it is a record!!!
      Kim recently posted…My Weak Spot (7/20-7/26)My Profile

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