Yes, there is such a thing as too much of a good thing. Many of us have been told that daily cardio is great for our heart health, but at what point does it become detrimental?
A 15-year observational study published in 2012 revealed, “Running speeds of six to seven miles/hour, running distances of about one to twenty miles/week, and frequencies of runs of two to five days/week were associated with lower rates of all-cause mortality; while higher weekly mileage, faster running paces, and more frequent runs diminished some of the survival benefits noted with more moderate running,” . So, from the information provided by this study, we can conclude that there is definitely a point where cardio becomes unhealthy, and that point apparently lands after running more than 7mph and 20 miles/week for more than 5 days out of the week.
Furthermore, “Even in highly trained individuals, high-intensity, sustained multi-hour endurance exercise efforts are often associated with cardiac strain, elevated levels of troponin and B-type natriuretic peptide (BNP), and subsequent patchy myocardial fibrosis,” . Troponin and BNP are both proteins that correlate to our heart health. As you might be able to gather from the information above, higher levels of these proteins translate to some heart damage, and damage can easily lead to failure if the issue is not taken care of swiftly. So, if professional athletes or even amateur athletes who train to be able to perform constant cardio still endure these negative effects, it is clear that those who are untrained should avoid doing too much cardio in order to avoid these adverse effects.
If you’re looking to begin a new health journey with some cardio, it would be safe to start out around 30 minutes of cardio 3-5 days/week. You can always build your way up, but it would be unsafe to go past the 7mph and 20 miles/week for 2-5 days/week. Also, if you are already a seasoned cardio participant and you tend to go over this safe range, try allowing yourself a bit of wiggle room to lessen your cardio to land within this range.
Remember, you should never get too caught up with how much exercise you do and just focus more on how you feel doing it and how your own mental, physical, and emotional health is holding up. If you ever have any concerns about your exercise routine, you can always consult your primary care physician to get any testing that you may want/need to confirm the status of your health.
1. Patil, H. R., O'Keefe, J. H., Lavie, C. J., Magalski, A., Vogel, R. A., & McCullough, P. A. (2012). Cardiovascular damage resulting from chronic excessive endurance exercise. Missouri medicine, 109(4), 312–321.
Author: Lauryn Agron
Editor: Kayjah Taylor
Health scientist: Dora Sow