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Vigorous Exercise Increases Risk of Heart Disease

February 2, 2010 by  

Vigorous Exercise Increases Risk of Heart Disease

In my search for the best in holistic medicine I have traveled the globe and spent time with healers of all types: shamans, psychic surgeons, qigong masters, faith healers, herbalists, bone setters… you name it.

While studying a method of qigong known as zhan zhuang (pile standing) in Asia, my teacher told me something very strange. He said: “This qigong exercises forces you to stand still and not move for a long time. Because of this, your energy will increase, your body will warm, and your muscles will strengthen. But you will not damage your joints from excessive movement, nor tax your heart through robust movement, nor damage the lungs through too rapid respiration.”

I have to say that I had trouble swallowing this last part and for the past 15 years I have been trying to reason out in my mind: why not increase heart rate and respiration? After all, isn’t the entire fitness industry in the Western world based on elevating heart rate, increasing lung capacity and burning calories from sweating and muscle strength development? Well, like with so many other things, it looks like the ancient Chinese knew what they were talking about.

Recent research coming out of New York University Medical Center suggests that the more often one engages in vigorous exercise the greater their risk of developing atrial fibrillation (AF). AF is a condition characterized by irregular, rapid heart rate, which affects people in many ways from simple fainting to heart failure and stroke.

But isn’t this always the way? First something is bad for you, then good for you, then bad for you again. Don’t raise the heart rate doing vigorous exercise, said the ancient Daoist masters. Train hard and break a sweat and elevate the heart, said the masters of sport science. Sweating and elevated heart rate lead to heart disease, now say the academics—but with more tangible and less metaphoric examples for the whys of it.

Odd thing is; there are always two sides to every coin. It’s not always so easy as good vs. bad, but the degree of good vs. bad on a continuum depending on who you are and where your health condition is. For relatively healthy people with no serious biological health issues, exercise has been proven time and again to balance the body and stave off potentially life-threatening diseases, like obesity and diabetes. However, if on the other hand you do have unrecognized heart disease, then exercise may cause you to die from sudden heart attack. And the leading cause of exercise-related death among high-level athletes is coronary heart disease!

Before you decide that you do or don’t have heart disease, there’s more to the study that is important for you to know. In the study there were exercise and non-exercise groups. Men who exercised long or hard enough to break a sweat five to seven days per week actually increased their chances of developing AF by an enormous 20 percent! And the non-exercise control group? No increase in their propensity for AF.

The big surprise is this: the participants who were in the “break a sweat” group were deemed to be “healthy,” and made up of men under the age of 50 who run on a regular basis. Common sense would say the opposite results should be the case. But no, the study clearly shows that the incidence of atrial fibrillation in men who jog increased by a massive 50 percent! And it was up by 74 percent in young men who break a sweat on a regular basis!

By now you may be worried about your own condition. However, it seems that AF is common and even expected in so-called healthy athletes. This is the case because cardiomegaly (enlargement of the heart) is so common in athletes that doctors don’t even tell athletes they have a condition that can lead to heart disease. Yes, in normal, non-athletic people, if their electrocardiograms showed these same signs the docs would be very concerned and let them know.

The long and short is this: the essence of the study indicates that breaking a sweat on a regular basis is bad for your heart. And history shows that marathoners and other top athletes die at a young age as a result of heart disease. And in China, where tai chi and qigong are practiced by millions, the rate of heart disease and young heart-related deaths is among the world’s lowest.

No wonder slow-burn exercises like walking, yoga, tai chi and qigong are considered as the safest and most effective exercises around the world. And the world is a whole lot bigger than the “experts” in the United States that get all the press.

—Dr. Mark Wiley

Dr. Mark Wiley

is an internationally renowned mind-body health practitioner, author, motivational speaker and teacher. He holds doctorates in both Oriental and alternative medicine, has done research in eight countries and has developed a model of health and wellness grounded in a self-directed, self-cure approach. The Wiley Method provides a revolutionary way of providing recovery and prevention of chronic pain, illness and disease. Grab your FREE COPY of Dr. Mark Wiley's "The 3 Secrets to Optimal Health" HERE.

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  • Fred


    Throughout the natural world we cav see how within the desig that has preserved species for millenial and ages the ‘co-factors’ constrivuting to their surivival

    • http://personallibertydigest lonnie


      • http://personallibertydigest lonnie

        humans have left the natural world and increased our life span by 20,30,40 years and more..
        we are an animal in a city,but we have learned to use all of resources to their fullest..

        • http://personallibertydigest lonnie

          theres a difference between surviving as a species and surviving as an individual, but they are related..the healthier an individual is, the longer that species will survive.

          • D Reed

            Weston A Price showed in his worldwide study of the healthiest tribes all over the world, that those who stuck to the dense nutrient, live enzyme high animal fat diets were the ones that had the most robust health, best development and longest lives. These were sometimes more primitive (and still living the traditional way such as the Massai,) and some were living in fine buildings (such as the Swiss in a certain area, who were dependent on raw milk and cheese out of cows in well mineraled pastures. They all are walkers and workers however, not joggers.

    • Richard Pawley

      Modern man (the last three thousand years) has always had a number of individuals who lived to be a hundred years plus. Moses was considered very old at 132 years but among hard working people who ate natural foods and not a lot of meat (it was expensive for thousands of years) and who did not get infectious diseases, and avoided wild beasts and warfare, living to be a hundred was not unusual. Having a reason to live and having good pure water added to the equation. Eating fish (then unpolluted) was common as was naturally fermented foods. Today’s four million plus chemicals have made life easier but have generally subtracted from longevity. Famines killed off many and tens of millions have died in just the last 250 years from lack of food. Apparently those who survived were stronger. Few were as possession oriented as we are in the Western world and now in the Eastern world as well. There was no progressive income tax or giant government a hundred years ago so we didn’t have to work five months a year just to support it. We can’t go back in time but we can eat as they did. Whole grains (for those who can tolerate them), Krill Oil for the least pollution-free source of Omega-3 oil along with Flax seeds (but not Flax oil which goes rancid in 15 minutes), natural free range beef and chickens, less sugars and no chemical sugars. High Fructose Corn Syrup is fine to make ethanol for your auto but not for the human body ( is a great source to learn about this) and even worse appears to be crystalline fructose. Apparently this very cheap stuff keeps a person from losing weight and may affect the liver. The ancients drank water, beer and red wine for thousands of years and we know it was the things in the grape skins and seeds (missing in white wine) that added to health and longevity. Today some take grape seeds and Muscadine seeds are best. They had no vaccines while we have to many with mercury and aluminum in them, indicted but not proven to be a cause of autism. H1N1 has thermosil as a preservative and that contains 25 mcg of mercury. However, Yaeyama Chlorella has been proven to remove heavy metals from the body (and isn’t it interesting that traditional Amish who generally grow what they eat and without chemicals have almost no autism). Some of the ancients had rotten teeth because of to much honey but we have fillings called silver but made partially from mercury (illegal in some countries but still used in this one). My soon to be 97 year old dad and 91 year old mom will celebrate their 68th wedding anniversary this month. Mom had all her teeth replaced at age 27 because of one bad tooth and has never regretted it nor had a mercury amalgam filling. Dad is of German ancestry and mom is an Irish-Scot. As a kid growing up in South Carolina (not known especially for longevity) we ate mostly vegetables we grew ourselves without chemicals. Today even finding natural or non-genetically modified foods takes some effort in this country. Canola Oil was invented in a laboratory and more than 70% of the corn and soy that we eat never existed in nature. Even our milk and cheese has been polluted with rBST and rBGH artificial growth hormones for the last 16 years in this country but not in others. Fortunately this is decreasing as Americans wise up that the cheapest is not necessarily the best. There are many more little things but they add up to good health or lack thereof. I have never written a book about nutrition but it’s why I write about nutrition in every book I write. The further we get away from the way God and nature invented things the worse off we seem to be. However, the coming collapse of paper currencies in a few years, after 200% plus inflation may change all that, and as we get back to a simpler way of life those who survive are likely to be healthier. Look for the positive and you may find it. Remember: just nine months till the election and the 111th Congress will be history.

  • David

    I notice that the only ‘break a sweat’ exercise was running/jogging. Most of us know that long duration running or jogging is not good for you as it does not increase heart and lung capacity. It does the opposite. It is also terrible for your joints and skeletal system.
    How about comparing with short duration high intensity exercise? This builds heart and lung capacity and makes you healthier. Compare a marathon runner to a 100 yard sprinter. The marathon runner has a straight androgynous body shape with no muscles to speak of whereas the sprinter has the tapered V-shape and has very muscular legs. The sprinter is the picture of health and the marathoner looks like he is from a starving third world country.

  • Steve

    I agree with David and his comment about the “break a sweat” group and the form of “exercise” employed. Also, it would be helpful if a link to the complete study were provided — this would allow for a critical review of the study, rather than a summary that appears subjective. While I do not disagree entirely with this summary (as I am quite opposed to the whole plyometric concept as used by the West) I am concerned that articles such as this will only enable the increasingly lazy population in the West to move less and “grow” more.

  • TIME

    I am not 100% on this but I will say that I have been working out since I was around eight years of age at the younger ages it was Krate, we did a lot of movement.
    Later in my teens it was surfing swiming, runing, weights etc. thats all been more or less what I have been doing for the last 50 years. Most folks that meet me think that I am 40 years old, so I think that the benifits of this long term exercise is a twin sided effect, one is that yes you do damage yourself lets face it I have had a few broken bones I have collected over the years as well other damage. But I also look 18 plus years younger than I am. Not a bad trade off.

    I have never been over weight. I walk 5 miles per day rain or shine. I still lift weights 3 days per week, strech every day. I don’t over eat as well what I do eat works to regenerate my system.

  • Freelancelot

    Many years of experience, observation, and research as a mile-running track star and middle distance runner among many other related endeavors have told me that the problem with both East and West is one of extremes. The East says “you should never run unless you are fleeing danger”. The West says “If you don’t run for miles and miles and miles all the time you can’t be optimally healthy”.

    Both of these views are just too extreme and lacking in balance. There are mountains of evidence that exercising enough to break a sweat on a regular basis is wondrous for you (unless, as noted in the article, you have a pre-existing medical condition). And let’s forget the practical physical benefits for a moment. Vigorous physical exercise makes you FEEL much better emotionally and mentally. I know of a proverb that goes “It’s not the amount of years in your life, but the amount of life in your years.”

    I want to live as long as possible, sure. But, what’s the point of living a life without the things in it that make me feel the most alive? Why should I care if running is going to shorten my life span (I don’t accept that premise, by the way, but let’s just go with it for a moment.)? It makes me more alive in the here and now. This is absolutely proven in my experience.

    But getting back to the fact that I don’t accept that premise: I can tell you that there is a man who is now 102 years old who lives in my area. He is a runner. He even runs in an annual racing event of several miles held here every Spring. He doesn’t come close to winning, of course, but he runs the whole thing without stopping. You know what he does before, during, and after the race? He drinks beer. Gee, you think he may be on to something?

    How many of these extremist athletes who die younger than average do things like drink beer during a foot race?

    I would agree that running marathons, and training to run marathons, is extreme. As a long time and “elite” runner, I would never do that. But NOT getting intense physical exercise is not the solution for would-be athletes, dancers, or martial artists, either. Tai chi and yoga evolved straight out of martial arts. Walking is only good for maintaining your current state of fitness, not for advancing it.

    We need balance between intensity, duration, recovery time, and dietary practices including the taking of supplements. We don’t need to just stand around (pun intended).

    • Mike

      Freelancelot, all great points! For the author to say “Breaking a sweat” is negative, is preposturous! I’ve been extremely active since I was 6, in baseball, basketball, football, track, cyclist, ding dong ditch…I know the benefits. I have also had hypertension since I was 18. I do know that when I do not “Break a sweat” for more than 3 days, I am more anxious, feel mentally slower, and not able to sleep well. It all comes down to eating a well balanced diet of fresh fruits and veggies, minor cardio, and having a positive outlook, as a minimum. I run marathons, half marathons, 10k’s, as well as 5k’s. I also, hike, snowboard, skateboard, as well as being a cyclist. I know the impact each one has on the body. 5k’s do seem the most benificial, in that they have far less the impact, yet release beneficial hormones. However, a well conditioned athelete for each of these events, is well prepared mentally and physically for such an event! Now, someone mentioned the body shape of a sprinter compared to a marathoner. That is because of the Hormones that are released during specific rigures. Sprinter release more HGH, which builds all muscle mass, whereas marathoning releases more Stress Hormones. Runners of marathons do not run to build up their muscle mass, as they are doing it for indurance. Just riding a bike doesn’t make your workout well rounded. You can see that he/she can have a well sculpted glutemus and legs, however, have the tummy of santa claus! Back to HGH; the body does need this as we lose muscle mass every year over 25, and it also helps retain skin elasticity! So, as another writing explained, this article is one-sided and unfounded! But, interesting nonetheless! I wonder what other factors contribute to the “Breaking a sweat” athelte, in having AF.

    • Mike

      …and, I like the BEER idea!!!

    • G Michael

      You are right on!!! I started regular exercising in my mid twenties. I got invited to swimming with this “old guy” who was in his 50′s. My first day at the pool was a real education. While I was struggling to make a few lengths of the pool, he cranked out 3/4 mile. Well after 3 months of learning how to swim efficiently, I was able to swim with him. The Red Cross had a Swim and Stay Fit program going and you had to at least do 1/4 mile each time to work toward the 50 mile club. I’m happy to say that I made that goal. I was hooked on what regular aerobic exercise was doing for me so the next step was an easy one to make. I have been running over 44 years and still enjoy getting out! I’m pretty slow now (scout pace) compared to how I used to run. I was not an elite athlete, but I usually did ok in my age group. I got 3rd in my 65-69 age group 2 years ago in the St Patrick’s Day race in Seattle – not bad for a guy who has been doing this as long as I have. My knees, feet, tendons etc, are still working pretty good. I am now getting in to road biking and am planning on doing the Seattle to Portland classic in July. The whole point of my reply is exactly what Lance said, it’s not about how long one lives, it’s about how much life you are able to live. Speaking about beer, that sounds realllly good! Especially after a hard run or bike ride.

  • Richard Stradler

    It makes you think…
    As my 93 year old grandfather said, “the secret to a long life is moderation in everything… even moderation in moderation!”

  • http://gmail nitter

    while i agree with most of the ideas put out there. the notes of”freelancelot” combine,to make a better idea of the over all program of exercise for normal people. you cannot use the training programs of the pros in any sport and apply it to the general has to be properly applied, using all the points. just using parts will not work without creating problems down the road for the body taking in the abuse.

  • David

    I live in a sweat shop climate (Houston Tx)- from May-October (high heat/high humidity)which even walking in the daytime results in breaking a sweat. I like to ride a bicycle for exercise which reduces sweating via the wind and found this to be less stressfull on the joints and cardiovascular system than jogging. Swimming also is a good alternative. I’ve noticed that after vigorous dancing I break out in a bigger sweat than bike riding. If I don’t exercise, I start to put on those extra pounds-(I’m over 50)

  • Todd

    It is quite obvious that the repliers to this article have a far better grasp on reality than the author, Dr. Mark Wiley.

    Personal Liberty Digest… you are doing serious harm to your credibility. If another article such as this one is so shallowly written — with such weak analysis and only “hearsay” for so-called evidence — I will discontinue by subscription and the VALID advertisers will lose my attention.

    I first opened the reply section because I felt that the author of the article, Dr. Mark Wiley, was either brainwashed or ignorant.

    I agree with the several previous repliers… basically moderation and regular exercise. I have mostly been athletic for over 40 years; the few periods that I did not exercise (weight lift, cycle, swim) due to laziness, or family and work commitments, my overall health suffered: high blood pressure, hypertension, poor sleep, etc. However, when I regularly do moderate cross-training exercises 30-60 minutes (sometimes half in the morning, half in the evening) 5-6 days a week, I have more energy, better muscle tone, sleep better, no muscular-skeletal pains from sitting in an office chair all day, and I am more focused on everything else in my life.

    Also, I look WAY younger than most people my age (and I recently shocked the heck out of my former high school classmates at our 30 year reunion)… seriously, there are still some ruffled feathers with old friends I hadn’t seen in many years because they are jealous that I chose to maintain my athletic lifestyle through school and the U.S. Army that they never had even in high school (and their wives chided them about it several times). Also, in dragonboating and cycling I can beat or hold my own against other men 15-20 years younger than me with clearly bigger muscles.

    Obviously, everything in moderation (and that includes sweaty exercising)… Live long and prosper people ;-)

    • Dr. Mark Wiley

      My goal in writing these articles is to expose readers to various points of views and options. It is not my wish to write a critical analysis of each study I may offer. This one, for example, did not report on how “breaking a sweat” is bad for people who do so with even little effort. The study also did not state weather short-term, high-intensity exercise was better, which also causes one to sweat. However, I thought the idea itself was interesting, opposed to mainstream views, and also showed some support for various ancient slow (non sweat) exercises taught in the East. It is thought provoking.

      Each one of us must be in control of our own health and lifestyles. Yet not all of us know what is available or new in research. The most I can offer in a column is to broaden views and stimulate in readers the desire to do their own research and discover more about the material I present to them.

      Thank you for your feedback. It has added to the dialogue.

  • Common Cents

    “Walking is the best possible exercise. Habituate yourself to walk very far.”
    Thomas Jefferson
    3rd president of US (1743 – 1826)
    “Walking isn’t a lost art: one must, by some means, get to the garage.”
    Evan Esar (1899 – 1995)
    “I believe that every human has a finite number of heart-beats. I don’t intend to waste any of mine running around doing exercises.”
    Buzz Aldrin (1930 – )

  • Mama Maria

    My GP (who was of Asian descent) once said that we all have a finite number of times our heart is set to beat, and after that, no more. I always found this ironic, since most doctors chastised me for being overweight. She did not. Her only suggestion was for me to become active (walk, do yoga, play Wii Sports with my kids) but she discouraged “aerobics” because they were contrary to logic. It is nice to hear another physician concur with this idea and it is encouraging to know there is now evidence to back up her statement.

    • Freelancelot

      Mama Maria,

      Nonsense. Nuff said.

  • pete

    We have been conned by media hype for decades.
    We have been told to buy this widget or that to
    help sell magazines, newspapers and TV advertising.
    Without the widget there’s NO SALE. The simplist things are the
    best. Walk instead of run, Stretching instead of Lifting. Use push pull Dynamic Tension rather than buying machines and Equipment that
    never seem to get used. Swimming is a wonderful exercise, it doesn’t destroy your knees and joints. Watch your Cat, he eats, Sleeps, stretches, observes others and is very independant. A very smart animal. Eat one meal a day, as they do in the old country. Most Americans are Too Fat and Lazy.

  • http://n/a Martha WMS

    Thanks for this information on exercise. I have found that high impact
    exercise has impacted my knees especially. Thank you for these
    instructions that will benefit the whole body.

  • Horst Klaus

    I would like to disagree with the statement on heavy excercise. I excercise on an eliptical trainer, with weights and other home excercises until I start to sweat. I feel great adn will soon be 79 yrs of age. I have never spent time in a hospital as a patient over-night but I am also very careful what and how much I eat, nothing fried and home-made muesli in the mornning in the morning for 30 years. I am a non-smoking, moderate alcohol in form of red wine or beer, vegetables or salads every day.

  • Marion Freuthal

    For a person in their 80s like me running or jogging is no longer an option. I developed arthritis in my knees from walking and standing on an unforgiving floor for five years. I do keep active with walking, yoga, stretching, lifting light weights, and hiking.

    I have been hearing a lot about barefoot running and about how people who do it learn to run “lightly” causing less stress on their joints.
    Perhaps a person’s mental attitude, outlook on life as well as body alignment have a lot to do with ggod health. What people eat plays a big roll as well.

    Some folks use a combination of excercise using Eastern and Western disclipines. Each of us needs to discover what is right for ‘me’.

    Dr Wiley gives people an opportunity to explore many options. There are many ways of staying physically and mentally fit.

  • thomas

    Ein Freund hat mir deinen Blog gerade empfohlen und dann hatte ich gedacht schaue ich doch einmal vorbei. Und ich muss sagen er gefaellt mir richtig gut, ich glaube er koennte zu meinen Stammblogs dazu kommen bei denen ich regelmae

  • John

    The Japonese and Chinese are among the longest lived people on earth, and they are not noted for their jogging habits. If you know the insurance industry then you know their data show couch potatoes (who are not overwight) outlive jocks. Next time you visit an old age home ask how many spent years sweating. Those who did their sweating have already died off for the most part.

    There is no “primitive” culture where the inhabitants spend hour each day sweating their brains out. Our “modern” Western society is full of delusional types who have to overdo everything.

  • jim

    Are Jumping to conclusions, Bar Hopping, Channel surfingand Running earands considered arobic activity? I personally like to see how many laps I can make around a buffet table.

  • http://InternetExplorer Benny

    There is more depth than to simple Tai Chi. There are certain steps which are strenous and if done often (say over a period of 3 to 6 months)shall give one a certain ‘A’ strenght.

  • Augusta Brotemarkle

    Thanks a lot for enjoying this beauty blog with me. I am appreciating it very much! Looking forward to another great blog. Good luck to the author! all the best!

  • K. Kenneth Cooper

    So, is what you are saying also is that too much sex will lead to AF (it’s usually vigorous and a sweat is broken)? The report stated, “And it was up by 74 percent in young men who break a sweat on a regular basis are prone to AF”…in which the conclusion one could reach is that 74 of young men who get laid on a regular basis could get AF and if that were true, why doesn’t most everyone have AF?


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