My favourite BBC podcast, More or Less, published this extract from its normal podcast: https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/w3ct5b7d . It is some science around the risks to heart health from prolonged intense (more than 4-6 hours per week for many years) endurance training. I'm posting this because I fit the profile for higher risk and have succumbed to the atrial fibrillation (a-fib) that is the main risk consequence.
Before anyone gets too worried about this, here are a few takeaways from this podcast:
- the health benefits of moderate exercise are many and far out-weigh any of the risks associated with it.
- higher risk of arrhythmias, of which a-fib is one, is associated with both ends of the exercise intensity spectrum: no exercise and intense, long-term exercise have the highest risk. Anything in between lowers your risk of arrhythmia.
- Studies have widely differing assessments of the risk quantification of intense exercise, varying from 1 in 2 to 1 in 10 chance of developing arrhythmia. Before anyone panics, that means that at worst you have a 50% chance of avoiding the condition and at best, have a 90% chance (pretty good odds), and then only at the most intense exercise levels. Also, risks at the intense end only arise after many years (20+?) of intense exercise.
- As with much human health research, most of the study is on males, and most of that on middle aged and older ones. Some research indicates that females may have lower risk with endurance training at any intensity but, as usual data on female subjects is sadly lacking.
This podcast extract is only 10 minutes long so it's not a huge investment in time. But it is good food for thought. I hope it sparks some discussion. I'll probably have to wait at least 18 months from my initial diagnosis until receiving the pretty straightforward procedure that should cure me (the delay is mostly arbitrary decisions not to allocate the facility and people resources to get it done - I'm currently number 51 of 103 patients just in Victoria awaiting treatment). If any of you can avoid this inconvenience and the limitations of its impacts, then this post will have been worth it.