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January 01, 2020 | Abigail Mckay

Is Chronic Cardio Good for You?

Cardiovascular exercise is commonplace today in a world obsessed with fitness and maintaining the right physique. Until recently, the concept of too much activity has been relatively unheard of. The average consumer has repeatedly heard the positive connection between fitness and longevity. While the benefits of exercise are substantial, too much exercise might be too much of a good thing. Benefits of exercise include weight loss, cardiovascular strengthening, increased balance and agility, and a decreased risk of acquiring a metabolic disorder, such as diabetes type II. In general, exercise keeps an individual healthy and thriving. Chronic cardio, on the other hand, has been shown, perhaps, to do the opposite.

Chronic cardio refers to endurance training, such as a marathon or triathlon training, that keeps your heart rate elevated for a longer-than-recommended period. During chronic cardio, when the heart rate remains elevated, hormones levels spike like cortisol. Cortisol is known as the stress hormone, which controls the stress response, blood sugar level, water balance, and the inflammatory response. Running or other types of endurance exercise places severe stress and strain on the body. This causes cortisol levels to remain elevated for too long, which can result in weight gain, slowed healing, muscle fatigue, high blood pressure, and severe fatigue. These are the exact opposite of what the body is supposed to achieve through exercise. Exercise should bring increased energy, weight loss, lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and better cardiac function.

 Another unfortunate complication that can occur in extreme cases related to endurance training is rhabdomyolysis. Rhabdomyolysis, a rare condition, can be caused by numerous factors including, heatstroke, blocked blood vessels, a car accident, or intense aerobic exercise, such as marathon training. Unfortunately, this condition occurs from the rapid breakdown of skeletal muscle. When muscles breakdown, which is standard in small amounts, myoglobin is released into the bloodstream. Myoglobin stores oxygen in the muscles, but when it is released into the blood due to fast muscle breakdown, kidney damage can occur.

 Usually, rhabdomyolysis, if caught early enough, can be treated in the hospital with intravenous fluids. However, in severe cases, if the kidneys have become damaged, more stringent interventions will occur. Rhabdomyolysis can spark the need for dialysis to help the kidneys function appropriately. Symptoms include muscle weakness, severe fatigue, nausea, vomiting, dark-colored urine, and possibly a fever. These symptoms are relatively common and can mimic other illnesses. So, it is best to be assessed by a physician.

After reviewing this topic, it is up to the consumer to decide if endurance training is worth the risks. With that being said, numerous athletes have been participating in endurance sports for years, with no complications. Another type of exercise that is beneficial with lower risks is called interval training. Interval training focuses on short spurts of expending energy with intervals of recovery. This allows the body to adapt to the strain of activity and allows the muscles and heart to recover quickly. Speak with a physician at Cura4u before altering your exercise regimen.


Abigail Mckay

Abigail has been a nurse for five years, and throughout her time as a nurse, she has worked in multiple medical-surgical units as well as spent time in the infusion therapy clinic and endoscopy lab. She is passionate about preventative medicine through patient education regarding nutrition and exercise. Due to her passion, Abigail has gone on to earn two certifications including a certification in medical-surgical nursing (CMSRN) and a certification in holistic nursing (HNB-BC), in hopes of being able to better serve her patients. Abigail earned her Bachelor of Science in Nursing from Liberty University in Lynchburg, VA and now bettering patient education in the healthcare system through partnering with American TelePhysicians.