A number of baffling cases of death have occurred during “healthy” sports and activities, like a marathon. Just recently, a 30-year-old woman ran at the London Marathon for the purpose of raising money for an organization that works to prevent suicides died. She collapsed a mile before the finish line and could not be revived.
The London Marathon has seen 11 deaths since beginning in 1981. There have also been a handful of runners who have died while competing in such events. One study reports that the rate of sudden cardiac deaths during these activities is 0.8 per 100,000 runners. (link)
So, does this indicate that marathon running may inflict more harm than good to your health?
The Reverse Effect: Running Marathons Isn’t Healthy?
Dr. Joseph Mercola explains that marathon running is “a classic example of a concept known as ‘the reverse effect’ – where too much of something that is normally good for you can have the opposite impact.”
According to Dr. Mercola, there are several reasons why death occurs when people run marathons, such as heat stroke and hyponatremia, or low sodium levels in the blood due to excessive drinking of water. The most common root cause, however, is a heart attack.
Although studies show that regular exercise cuts cardiovascular risk by a factor of two or three, extended vigorous exercise, in this case long-distance running, can raise cardiac risk by seven-fold. (link) This is because this activity can deal extraordinary stress on your heart – an amount that your body wasn’t designed for.
Different studies on long-distance running show its devastating effects:
- Long-distance running increases risk of inflammation that often triggers cardiac problems. (link)
- As published in the journal Circulation, running a marathon can cause abnormalities in how blood is pumped into the heart. (link)
- An experiment shown in the Journal of Applied Physiology recruited a group of older men, who were all a part of the 100 Marathon club – men who have completed a minimum of 100 marathons. The results revealed that half of the athletes, especially those who have trained the longest and the hardest, possessed heart muscle scarring. (link)
While marathon running offers a challenge and an adrenaline rush, Dr. Mercola, who is also a former long-distance runner, recommends a different type of workout similar to that of a hunter-gatherer lifestyle.
The Healthier and Safer Way to Exercise
Rather than endorse prolonged cardio exercises, scientists suggest that the best fitness regimen is comprised of movements that are similar to that of a hunter-gatherer lifestyle, or short bursts of high intensity activity. As noted by researchers, the ideal exercise program would include the following aspects of the ancient man’s lifestyle:
- A variety of activities performed regularly, such as weight training, cardio, and stretching
- Interval training sessions done once or twice a week with ample recovery time
- Alternate difficult days with easy days
- Exercises done outdoors for vitamin D optimization and mood improvement
- Waking and running on softer, uneven terrain – possibly barefoot or with the use of footwear that do not restrict foot motion or natural foot strike
- Recreational activities, such as dancing
- Exercising with a companion for social stimulation
Dr. Mercola says that you can reap significant health benefits from a few minutes of exercise each week – benefits similar to those obtained from hours of exercise. He adds that by doing just three minutes of High Intensity Training (HIT) a week for four weeks, you’ll be able to witness positive changes in your health.
You can perform HIT without enrolling at a gym. Instead, you can do this by walking, running outdoors, or by using a recumbent bike or elliptical machine. Dr. Mercola recommends trying out Peak Fitness exercises.
If you’re not doing any strength training, Dr. Mercola suggests that it might be more beneficial to exercise for two or three times a week for a total of four minutes of HIT. He says that doing this more than three times a week can be counterproductive, as rest is necessary for your body to recover.
For a demonstration of HIT, check out this video of Dr. Mercola demonstrating Peak Fitness on an elliptical machine.