February is American Heart Health Month. Give your heart some love!
Additionally, Friday February 6th is National Wear Red Day to raise awareness about women and heart disease. Check out goredforwomen.org.
How much is too much exercise?
Is there such a thing as too much exercise?
Longitudinal studies came out about marathoners last year — more exercise must be better for you, right? The Wall Street Journal reported that
“A growing body of research shows the error of that thinking. A study published in the current edition of Missouri Medicine found that 50 men who had run at least one marathon a year for 25 years had higher levels of coronary-artery plaque than a control group of sedentary men. A British Medical Journal study published this year compared the carotid arteries of 42 Boston Marathon qualifiers with their much-less active spouses. We hypothesized that the runners would have a more favorable atherosclerotic risk profile,” says the article.
As it turned out, that hypothesis was wrong. A small body of research suggests that heart problems may arise not in spite of extreme-endurance exercise but because of it. That has led some cardiologists to theorize that, beyond a certain point, exercise stops preventing and starts causing heart disease.”
Bad news for endurance sports?
This news was met with great dismay by me as I am what I refer to as a recovering marathoner. I’ve lost track of how many races I’ve participated in. I quit counting after 20, but it is probably closer to 30 marathons since I started right after I graduated from college. Once you get into that endorphin groove it is really hard to break out of it!
I laughed when I read another blogger’s reaction on theclymb.com‘s website. Audra Rundle wrote, after having been notified of the detrimental effect of endurance events, “I replied to my concerned friend’s email with, “Thanks for the head’s up. I’ve also read that one study showed that individuals who ate multiple times a day, slept at night, and bathed regularly for 80+ years died—no matter how much exercise they did. Scary, eh? … Seriously though, I love you too.”
Love your workout
Remember last time when I blogged about why it was important to actually like your workout, because if you didn’t you could send your cortisol levels skyrocketing, and high cortisol leads to all kinds of bad stuff? Well, here is the why of how cortisol is looking like it makes a favorable environment for heart disease.
Study after study creates a relationship between plasma cortisol and cholesterol. This particular one was published on the National Institute of Health website:
“To study the association of plasma cortisol and coronary atherosclerosis, we elected 71 male outpatients who had coronary angiography as part of their evaluation at our facility. Forty-eight percent of the angiograms showed no evidence of coronary artery disease (CAD), 20% showed mild CAD, and 32% showed moderate to severe CAD. We found significant correlations between elevated serial morning plasma cortisols and moderate to severe coronary atherosclerosis. Using the odds ratio, we compared plasma cortisol to the major risk factors for coronary artery disease. Plasma cortisol was second only to serum cholesterol as a discriminator in our patient population between diseased and non-diseased patients. We found a significant correlation between plasma cortisol and cholesterol, blood pressure, and smoking- the three cardinal risk factors for CAD. The highest degree of correlation was found between cortisol and cholesterol. The possible significance of the association of cortisol and the major risk factors for CAD is discussed.”
If cholesterol is a patching mechanism, and atherosclerosis develops because of elevated cholesterol in the bloodstream, and cholesterol is elevated because of cortisol, then be careful of that steady state cardio! Recent studies have shown that if women in particular indulge in more than 30 minutes of steady state cardio, they boost their cortisol levels by 150%.
I will expand on that factoid in a future blog, because it has huge possibilities. So what is the best bang for your cardio buck, and very importantly, your heart?
Intervals, plain and simple.
What do I mean by that? Well, quite honestly, I really don’t mind how long or short your intervals are. There are a million ways to execute intervals in your workouts.
First, the Tabata method utilizes really short intervals (20 seconds of high intensity exercise followed by 10 seconds of rest, repeated 8 times for a total of 4 minutes!). This is very hard but gets over fast. 🙂
Second, you could try the school of thought that applies the quantity of time you spend in your sport to your interval timing. For instance if you were a football player, since we have the Super Bowl coming up this weekend, you go hard for 10 seconds, and then jog back to the huddle and rest a bit for 30 seconds, and then you go hard again. That is another example of how you can utilize the start-stop-start interval methodology with your cardio.
Here’s my super scientific approach: If I am out running, I will pick a tree and sprint to it, jog to the fire hydrant, and sprint again to the mailbox. You could wear your heart rate monitor and massively track your zones, but if you get sick of wearing devices for every workout, this is a very easy technique to implement.
Let us know in the comments below what your favorite interval training method is! Do you whale on a heavy bag? Jumprope in place? Slam a medicine ball? I look forward to hearing from you!
And don’t forget . . . Go Seahawks!