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Endurance exercise and the heart — a mention in the New Yorker

Do you exercise a lot?

Have you been at it for years?

Are you the type that rides around the neighborhood to make a 98-mile ride into a century?

Do you get squeamish if you can’t exercise for 24 hours?

Are you curious about that beautiful machine in your chest? You know, the rhythmic coordinated pump that squeezes 100,000 times daily–and never gets a pause.

You have read here, and elsewhere, that exercise is vital for wellness. But could exercise have an upper limit: a point in which the rhythmic pump says enough to the unremitting inflammation and stress.

If you care about this topic, read this New Yorker piece from Dr. Lisa Rosenbaum. The title and link are as follows:

Extreme exercise and the heart.

Dr Rosenbaum does an incredible job of putting together a complex topic, one that challenges our intuitions and attachments. Plus, she is both a beautiful writer and nice person.

Thanks Lisa. That was something.


4 replies on “Endurance exercise and the heart — a mention in the New Yorker”

I think what becomes abundantly clear is that most news articles and all studies distort the absolute benefit and risk numbers of any behavior or treatment. Drug companies want to sell drugs and the various forms of the media want to put out articles that get attention (it’s the money again). Can you imagine how boring and un-motivating it would be to read an article that said that changing a behavior or taking a drug would change a lifetime risk or benefit from .9% to 1.1% in absolute terms? That wouldn’t sell drugs either, particularly when those drugs have side effects. 22.22% sounds much more dramatic.

So who takes the responsibility for putting out “simple to understand”, non-misleading, “bottom line” data? It’s not going to be drug companies or the media. Apparently, not any government agency either. It would have to be doctors. Right now, the only other source of information is what people post on the internet. And that information is too often inaccurate or designed to sell a “natural” cure, a book, or a video.

If people could get good numbers, they would be able to make lifestyle and treatment decisions based on relevant data. Maybe people would accept the fact that more exercise doesn’t confer more health benefit and still continue the activity for love of a sport. Or maybe they would not see enough benefit of a particular drug, given the risks. Doctors would have to get their heads “out of the weeds”, translate the data into simple, absolute terms, and communicate it to their patients. Then people could get back to enjoying life, rather than being obsessed with trying to extend it.

I can’t stop laughing.

I just read the article in New Yorker. One of the people who commented about Pheidippides who collapsed and died after running 26.2 miles had this question:

“What was his time?”

This commenter was obviously a runner.

I am a 45 y/o male and have always had an active lifestyle. I only started running a year and a half ago. I quickly worked up to 5 mi runs but had to cut mileage back some because of knee pain. I still average 40 miles a month with 3 to 4 mi runs. I know this is no where near a marathon but my question is what is extreme for me. I love running and this new information is frustrating. Would love some feedback.

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