Harvard Heart Letter

Ask the doctor: Is a lot of exercise bad for the heart?

Ask the doctor

Is a lot of exercise bad for the heart?

Q. I know that exercise is good for my heart, which is one reason why I took up long-distance running. But I have heard that marathon running damages the heart. Is that true?

A. Your question, variations of which have been batted around for more than a century, doesn't yet have a simple answer.

Back in 1869, a British doctor wondered if prolonged vigorous exercise, like long-distance rowing or endurance bicycling, could damage the heart. Over the years, overwhelming evidence of the benefits of regular exercise for the heart and virtually every other system in the body pushed that concern to the side. But several small studies have raised the question again.

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