A new study claims that exercise may increase heart disease risk for some healthy people. You heard that right: exercise might be bad for you. Published in the peer-reviewed science journal PLoS One, the study found that exercise might actually increase the risk of high blood pressure and other risk factors for heart disease. Wait, what? Doesn’t that go against everything we’ve been told about exercise, well, ever?
This highly controversial study contradicts the common scientific wisdom that exercise is vital for a myriad of issues relating to good health, including weight management, energy levels, mood enhancement, and more.
According to a New York Times article:
By analyzing data from six rigorous exercise studies involving 1,687 people, the group found that about 10 percent actually got worse on at least one of the measures related to heart disease: blood pressure and levels of insulin, HDL cholesterol or triglycerides. About 7 percent got worse on at least two measures. And the researchers say they do not know why.
Ten percent is nothing to scoff at, but there was an equal percentage of people whose levels improved as a result of vigorous exercise. In addition, the study focuses only on people who were already considered healthy; it doesn’t address the affect of exercise on the measured levels for people who are overweight, obese or suffering from other health problems. Considering that all physical activity (from walking down the street to completing a marathon) comes with some risk, it seems nothing short of alarmist to claim that exercise poses dangers to heart health.
Dr. Michael Lauer, who is director of the Division of Cardiovascular Sciences at the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, wasn’t involved in the study, but told the Times that it’s good to be aware of adverse effects:
If we are going to think of exercise as a therapeutic intervention, like all interventions there will be adverse effects.
While plenty of Americans will jump at any excuse not to exercise, we’d really like to see some more data before we hang up our running shoes. In a country where almost one-third of all adults are obese, it seems equally dangerous to promote the idea that healthy exercise might be detrimental to health. Even the authors of the study said “people should continue to exercise as before, but might also consider getting their heart disease risk factors checked on a regular basis. ”
As always, you should consult with your doctor before beginning any kind of exercise program. But, for now, we feel pretty sure that the decades of previous research on physical activity, combined with countless positive personal experiences of exercisers, support the idea that regular moderate exercise is just fine for your health, both mental and physical.