How often do you hear exercise being described as unhealthy? Exercise can be strenuous, and, if not done correctly, dangerous. But “exercise” and “unhealthy” are not usually in the same sentence, so what on earth could I be talking about when I say there is such a thing as too much exercise?
What Science Says About Too Much Exercise
A recent study conducted by Monash University found that too much exercise can cause intestinal bacteria to leak into the bloodstream, resulting in blood poisoning.
How much is too much exercise? Don’t worry, the average person probably doesn’t get enough exercise, but for those running 24-hour ultra-marathons, take heed to this warning.
Researchers took blood samples from athletes before and after they completed a 24-hour ultra-marathon to see how extreme forms of exercise can affect the body’s gut lining. They found that prolonged physical activity causes naturally occurring gut bacteria, known as endotoxins, to leak into the bloodstream.
When endotoxins seep into the bloodstream, the body’s immune cells trigger an unhealthy inflammatory response, similar to a serious infection. This inflammatory response is more than the body can handle, and if the endotoxins flood the bloodstream too much, it can cause a fatal condition known as sepsis induced systemic inflammatory response syndrome.
Nearly all the athletes in the study had blood markers identical to patients admitted to hospitals for sepsis.
You may have ran a marathon, or know somebody who has, and are quick to call this baloney. Why don’t more marathon runners get blood poisoning?
Marathon runners are able to avoid blood poisoning by training hard and staying fit. Athletes who properly prepared their bodies before running a marathon had higher levels of Interleukin, an anti-inflammatory protein. Our bodies have the ability to adapt and prevent negative immune responses triggered by endurance events.
For those of us who don’t know, what is a 24-hour ultra-marathon exactly?
Contrary to the name’s suggestion, you’re not running for a full 24 hours, neither consistently nor divided in segments. In a 24-hour ultra-marathon, you run as long as you can within the 24 hour period. Rather than set a distance goal like most marathons, you set a time goal, and each person has his or her own personal time goal.
With that being said, if these marathon runners have different time goals, how much is too much exercise? According to Dr. Ricardo Costa, at Monash University’s Department of Nutrition and Dietetics, more than four hours of exercise a day and repetitive days of endurance training is way too much exercise.
24-hour ultra-marathons are growing in popularity. Currently, there are waiting lists to participate in these marathons, and it’s great that so many people are living more active lifestyles. If you plan on running any marathon, Dr. Costa recommends getting a health checkup first, followed by a slow and steady training program. One month of training is not enough.
Keep this study in mind the next time you want to go all out at the gym. Exercise is great, in moderation, but dangerous in excess.
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