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Could Exercise be Bad For Your Health?

By , SparkPeople Blogger
It seems that the crazier a headline sounds, the more likely people are to click on it.  Even though I knew a recent story couldn’t possibly be what it seemed, I had to check it out for myself.  “Exercise Could Hurt Heart Health”, “Exercise May Be Bad for Some” and “Is Exercise Bad for You?  A New Study Says Yes!” were just some of the titles about a recent study that caught my attention. Could everything I’ve learned through school, work experience, professional certifications and personal experience really be wrong?  After review, I don’t think there is cause for alarm just yet.
A recent survey of six exercise studies (involving 1,687 adults) was published in the journal PLoS One.   These studies measured blood pressure, fasting insulin, triglycerides and HDL cholesterol, all of which are markers for heart disease.  Eight to 10 percent of study participants who exercised regularly had some negative affect on one of these four markers.  They aren’t sure why, but researchers suspect physical activity as the cause.  One of the researchers noted that “even if someone had an adverse response in one of the parameters, they could take medicine to correct it and continue exercising. For example, if somebody exercises to bring his or her cholesterol level down but it increases blood pressure, then he or she would take blood pressure medicine and maintain their exercise.”
Although a small percentage had negative outcomes, an equal number were considered to be “super responders”, meaning exercise produced better than anticipated results.  Participant’s activity levels varied from moderate to vigorous. Researchers hope further studies will help physicians predict the effect exercise will have on patients, so that they can tailor physical activity recommendations to each individual. 
The survey’s authors say that further investigation is needed to determine the biological reason for any negative effects of a regular exercise program.   They are also quick to mention that the benefits of regular physical activity still far outweigh any risks for the majority of the population.  So it looks like your doctor isn’t going to recommend you become a couch potato anytime soon.
Find out more about how Small Bits of Fitness Add Up and the Heart-Healthy Benefits of Exercise
What do you think?  Do sensational headlines like this cause confusion and/or panic more than anything else?  Or could there be something to them?

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JEANKNEE 2/15/2019
I appear to be one of those with adverse reactions to physical activity. It has been quite a balancing act. The guideline I've been given is that I should feel refreshed following exercise. If I do not. It was too much. And, I should not feel a need to sleep following activity. If I do. It was too much. Even gentle walking can send my body into a tizzy. We do not know why. Report
JIACOLO 2/15/2019
I have worked with my health care provider over the years to watch how my body responds after regular exercising for a short amount of time. I often get sick following a few weeks into a fitness regime. Report
Boo! Report
RO2BENT 2/15/2019
Gotta suck in gullible Americans Report
WONDERGALE 1/30/2019
Interesting! Report
DWROBERGE 3/22/2018
Great article Report
Headline was obviously misleading... Report
Headlines are dumb. Report
Guess it is case of too much information.

Its like when people say fat free food is good, on the other hand they say it is filled with chemicals.
Maybe they meant people who over exercise. Seriously. Report
Just goes to show that headlines are directed at those who don't use their commonsense. Newspapers are more interested in circulation numbers than giving their readers real information. Report
I to feel everyone should see a doctor before exercising. Be safe and lose weight and or tone up. Report
In my opinion, this only confirms what every trainer, sportman or woman, physiotherapist, doctor knows and has been saying for the last +40 years: you should get a medical check up before starting more intensive training, for any sport and also for fitness, cardio or musculation programs.

And having a yearly check-up is recommended as well, especially if you're older. Report
Most people don't look at the actual research, nor for thay matter do they have enough understanding about how research of this type should be carried out to have a good degree of validity. Basically, the media likes to take this kind of "storu" and do what it can to show the general public that it really doesn't need to change or modify it's lifestyle to get healthier. Basically you might as well just keep up with status quo because even exercise is hazardous to your health...see, here's a study to prove it. Sad thing is that too many believe it and use it to justify their poor health and lack of persistance to create a better lifestyle. Another example of "buyer beware". Report
Anything in excess can have an unfavorable result. Report
Exercise bad for you? that is like saying don't eat again because food in general is bad for you.
so exercise is not bad for you, it's just conspireing men wanting to scare us.
i am not paying attention to it. Report
No one study is the real outcome, but it sure throws a curve ball for many peaople. Next year the results will be different---done of course by someone else. I just never rely one one groups decision, never know what their motive is stick to what works for you once you have a doctors ok to exercise and have fun doing so. Report
No one study is the real outcome, but it sure throws a curve ball for many peaople. Next year the results will be different---done of course by someone else. I just never rely one one groups decision, never know what their motive is stick to what works for you once you have a doctors ok to exercise and have fun doing so. Report
There are studies out there to prove almost anything. Who paid for these studies and what did they expect to find? You can't just accept the results of a study, you need to do more of your own research. Report
There's always going to be some study like this. Some researchers are probably studying the affects of cutting your fingernails or brushing your teeth and how it could be dangerous to your health. o.O I think the key is to listen to your body-- don't drive yourself to the ground when you exercise. We all know that exercise is essential for a healthy life and in fact can reverse many health problems. I think this research is a waste of time. Common sense should tell someone not to workout so long or so hard that it causes your heart to give out and maybe it's good to remind ourselves that back when we were cavemen/cavewomen we were much more active than we are today and we didn't become extinct because of it. Report
I do not exercise to lose weight. I exercise to bring oxygen into my system to sustain life, fight cancer and other diseases. it seems to be beyond my understanding that if I exercise why would i need medications? I am exercising to get OFF the medications. Report
Like Andrayaya said, "So many studies out there that Ive stopped paying attention... " and there are so many so-called "experts" that offer their opinions that you don't know who to listen to. So, yeah, I have pretty much quit paying attention too. I have finally realized that I have to listen to my body and pay attention to what it is telling me...

So many studies out there that Ive stopped paying attention... Report
Intelligent people probably would not even bother reading something like this. Report
That's really between a doctor and patient. Report
"See your doctor before....." Report
I looked at the study report in PLoS One (link in the article). Several cautions:

1. This is a review of several very different studies, all done on different populations with different methods. Don't ask how "the study" was done, because they were all done differently. Combining them may be hazardous to your accuracy.

2. The parameters measured are not precisely measurable. They vary from day to day, hour to hour, often minute to minute. It's not clear that this measurement inaccuracy was fully accounted for in the statistical analysis.

3. The study did not measure outcomes, like incidence of heart attack. It measured factors that only loosely predict outcomes. If one risk factor gets worse in one individual, it does not clearly predict that this individual is more likely to get a heart attack or other adverse event.

4. There was no effort to find out whether, when an individual had a worsening of one risk factor, the same individual had an improvement in other risk factors that might compensate. I mean: if your HDL gets worse, but your blood pressure gets better, is that good or bad?

Bottom line: this is an investigation into details that may be irrelevant to your health. Studies that look at actual outcomes (whether the subjects are still alive and healthy several years later) tell you that for most people, exercise is beneficial. Your mileage may vary but there is no good way to predict that. Your best bet is to get off your butt and work out. Report
nothing is simply and unambiguously good or bad. all choices have consequences and some of them are 'negative.' the 'negatives' from working out regularly and eating well are microscopic compared the negatives from my former lifestyle. yes, headlines like this are silly and sensationalist, but i think the only people who will really take that sort of thing as gospel and stop living healthy because of it are the people who were desperately looking for an excuse to self-sabotage anyway. Report
Interesting. Report
The benefits of exercise far outweigh the risks for most people. There is always a risk to anything we do. That is why it is recommended to see your doctor first before beginning a new exercise routine. A body in motion tends to stay in motion. Look around. We are becoming an overweight nation. We eat too much. But worse yet, we don't move enough. These kind of headlines are often just viewed as an excuse by those who don't want to move. It really is inexcusable for those who write these headlines to do so, as many will never read beyond the headline. Report
If any of this is true, how much did they exercise. Were they exercising with moderation or 4 times a day? This study leaves more questions than answers/ Report
Anyone could have an adverse reaction to exercise, which is why they recommend you get a physical first!!

I have to say it does annoy me when people give me scathing looks when I exercise because I have a lot of medical issues and it makes my efforts look like I'm not trying. Just because I walked 2 miles an hour doesn't mean I wasn't WORKING just as hard as you! (and I'm short so I have a very short stride.) Right now I keep getting messages on my page that are inspirational about getting out and exercising in the fresh air and sun!! I can't be in the sun due to medication and I can't exercise because I JUST had an ACDF. I love people's support, but I wish they would be a bit less critical of people who aren't doing what THEY think they should be. Report
I have to wonder if this was published in the "National Inquirer" !! Report
The variety of reports and studies affirm to me the wisdom of being tuned in and in touch with my body to make choices that serve my best health for myself. Report
Although I wouldn't worry about the study, the idea of taking medicine to offset one set of negatives in order to improve another seems a bit nutty. It's the symptomatic approach to health care, and it's very short sighted. Report
Jen, I'm reading more and more about the negative effects of running distances greater than a marathon (50K, 50-milers, 100-milers, etc). But, like Coach Nancy, I will continue to run weekly and cross train when I'm not out on the roads or trails. But this is not a moratorium against running; too much of anything can be bad for us, which is nothing new. Report
So what was the control on this small group?
How soon after exercising were the measurements made? Were measurements made directly after exercising and again at 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6 hour intervals?
What was the general health of the individuals? Did it stay the same during the entire study? I doubt it. I have nearly 10 years of weekly BP readings and I can tell you when I had a cold, allergies, or when I was well just by looking at those numbers.

The headlines are misleading (in fact most are). They are designed to get you to read the article and get additional funding. The excerpts from the article doesn't really tell us anything new. The part that perturbed me the most was the idea of taking medication to counteract the effects of the study. Ummm, maybe we should find out why the exercise caused the high blood pressure first. Was the exerciser overdoing it for his/her physical condition or was the exerciser doing the exercise improperly or was the exerciser coming down with a cold or suffering from allergies? Report
One thing I learned in a recent stat class is that any data can be manipulated to present what it's author wants to present. These articles are just examples of that fact. The majority of people who exercise are rewarded with healthier minds and bodies. Those who do not wish to "exercise" are most likely the market to which these articles appeal. Too much of anything is not good but the same can be said for not enough. Report
Ugh, human beings were meant to MOVE! And really, of course things might happen if you start a workout routine after not moving for years upon years. Doesn't give you an excuse to stop; it just means find the right routine that is pleasant enough that won't kill you. Before you know it, you body will ask - BEG, even! - for something more challenging.

The only time exercise is bad for you is when you are injured or suffered from something serious (i.e. heart attack)- which most of us do not have. Most of the time it's just a waiting game but eventually it WILL be time for you to move.

At the moment, I am suffering from a torn calf that prevents me from walking too much. It is horribly debilitating and I miss exercise so much! I recently re-injured it from just spinning around in my kitchen cooking, so I know now that I just can't do much of anything. (I am also sporting a very sexy limp when I walk. Yes, be jealous - ha!) While that is my excuse for NOW, I am counting down to the days when I CAN exercise. Report
The one little line - the benefits of regular physical activity still far outweigh any risks for the majority of the population.

Enough said! Report
I definitely find the sensationalized headlines a detriment. Many people skim headlines and never actually read the article. And even those who do read the article often go in with a preconceived notion of what to expect things to mean, so what doesn't fit is ignored.

In this case "researchers suspect" and "in 8 to 10 percent of cases" ... somehow becomes a headline that implies it is exercise for everyone (100%) and a verified result. Report
Sounds like sensationalism journalism to me. :-\ I think one can over-exercise, and there is such a thing as exercise addiction, but the vast majority of Americans suffer much more from Coach Potato-itis. Report
We all have a friend -- or maybe we were that person -- who thought that exercise gave them the "right" to eat whatever they wanted. Report
I'm tired of sensationalizing headlines that deliberately try to get people riled up. It also irritates me that they would try to get people to read an article that way. There are going to be people that don't respond the same to exercise as others. I would be highly skeptical of anyone who tried to tell me exercise is bad for me. I can tell you based on experience that it has only done good things for me. Report
There is always a FANTASTIC headline...I will say can lead to "bad things" but the good it does OUTWEIGHS someone being careless and twisting their own ankle...or not paying attention, like I recently did and fall over my step onto the floor...or losing yourself in the music and not paying close attention that your zum may not be fully zumba READY. Report
There is always a FANTASTIC headline...I will say can lead to "bad things" but the good it does OUTWEIGHS someone being careless and twisting their own ankle...or not paying attention, like I recently did and fall over my step onto the floor...or losing yourself in the music and not paying close attention that your zum may not be fully zumba READY. Report
I've read some recent articles that have said that exercise could be detrimental to a person's health, but not because it lowered any of our vital numbers. The problem stemmed from an increase in injuries. Doctors noted an increase in injuries from people doing things like Crossfit, Zumba, Yoga etc...

I suspected the reason so many people were getting injured was because they were pushing their bodies to do things their bodies weren't ready to do. Thus the increase in injuries.

However, I find these new findings unusual. Hundreds of previous studies over the years have shown that a regular exercise program can DECREASE blood pressure, blood sugar, tris, cholesterol, etc... So, something about that research isn't right given the results of older long term studies.

So, the people who were being tested, what were they being tested for ? Were any of them smokers ? Were any of them overweight or obese ? How many people were elderly ? What were they eating ?

There are many factors we don't know which would skew the data.

I dont like to see headlines like that. They have me scared before I even read them but I do read them cuz I want to know what they say. Right now I am 33 will be 34 in a little over a week. My dad passed away at 42 from a massive heart attack. So I will admit to not exercising & stopping an exercise if I feel funny or it feels my heart might not be able to take it cuz I learned 2 years ago that I have a heart murmur. So exercise programs like insanity freak me out cuz they keep u going & going so I just go bike riding with my boys walk or do simple exercises that dont feel like Im gonna die within the first 10 minutes. Report
I think the people that will believe it are the people who need an excuse to say why they didn't exercise. 8- 10 percent having a negative effect would definitely be a genetics issue. I love how I feel after exercise and would never give it up. I would rather exercise and take my chances and lose weight then stay fat and know something worse is around the corner. Report
I was taking cholesterol medication for 15 years with no exercising. Now after losing about 20% of my body weight I am off all medication. Exercise is a large part of my "cure". I'm not about to stop! Report