Is too much exercise bad for the heart

Dr James O’Keefe is a preventive cardiologist with Saint Luke’s Health System in Kansas City who has an interesting take on possible negative impact of excessive chronic exercise on the heart. His TEDx talk below runs just under 20 minutes and gives a fairly balanced discussion on the benefits and potential risks of too much exercise. While his point of excessive exercise may seem counter-intuitive at first, he does focus on the perspective that “everything in moderation, including moderation”



What he’s isn’t saying is that there isn’t health benefits with exercise.

But there is a limit on return as far the benefits of exercise after a certain amount of running miles per week (25 miles/week) as well as running speed (

Its similar to alcohol as far as published health benefits. People that drink one to two alcohol drinks a day have less health issues that people that don’t drink alcohol at all, or those that drink alcohol to excess.


He also published a review article detailing potential risks of excessive chronic exercise in the medical journal of Mayo Clinic Proceedings

O’Keefe and his group  looked a previously published medical studies of people who participated in a variety of endurance sports; from triathlon, marathons, or longer cycling races and events.

And yes, there is a benefit to moderate exercise, especially when compared to the coach-potato lifestyle and people that are fairly physically inactive – about a 7 year longer life span. But, when O’Keefe and his fellow researchers looked at the “extreme” or excessive exercisers in the studies, they found that there was actually a negative effect on the heart because of the heart damage from excessive chronic exercise.

The damage that occurs tends to be very small from an single workout, but the repetitive and chronic nature of the exercise may prevent the heart from fully healing and recovering from prior exercise bouts and cardiac muscle damage.




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