I'm sure you're very familiar with the emphasis that is placed on getting enough physical activity, and it's true that we need to ensure we get enough exercise.  Moderate exercise levels have been shown to reduce inflammation in the body.  However, there is now increasing concern that getting too much exercise leads to a state of chronic inflammation, which can have detrimental effects on numerous aspects of your health.  Running marathons is of particular concern.

   Regular Exercise vs. Too Much

Overall, people who exercise regularly experience significant benefits, and tend to live 7 years longer than people who are physically inactive.  But as with practically everything, there is definitely such a thing as too much.  In a review of studies of people who trained at extreme levels to participate in marathons, triathlons, ultramarathons or long bike races, it was found that the health effects of all their activity tended to not only wane, but to actually reverse and turn toxic.


You may be aware that 'marathon' originates from the Greek legend of the professional runner, Phidippides (also spelled Pheidippides), who ran the 26.2 miles from Marathon to Athens to report the outcome of a battle.  When he arrived, he is reported to have staggered and gasped, "Rejoice! We conquer," collapsed, and died. 

A 42.2 km (26.2 mile) race was part of the first modern Olympic games, and was run in Boston in 1896, with about 25 and 17 runners respectively.  One hundred years later, 50,000 runners took part in the 1996 Boston marathon.  While most people recover reasonably quickly from running a marathon, adverse health outcomes, including several deaths in recent years, continue to occur to marathon runners.

While many lab results are unusually high in runners after a marathon, indicative of inflammation among other things, it has been found that during and immediately following a marathon, runners show up to a 50% increase in levels of an enzyme called troponin which indicates damage to the heart (it's the same enzyme that shoots up in people having heart attacks).

"When you're sitting around, your heart is pumping about five quarts of blood a minute, and if you run up the stairs hard or push yourself physically, it can go up to 35 or 40 quarts a minute," says author Dr. James O'Keefe.  "If you go and run for 26 miles, or do a full-distance triathlon, it completely overtaxes the heart.  The heart is pumping 25 quarts a minute for hours and hours, and that starts to cause muscle fibers to tear, which leads to a bump in troponin and in other enzymes associated with inflammation, and it causes the death of some muscle cells in the heart."

Over time, that damage can cause scar tissue on the heart, and a thickened, scarred heart is more vulnerable to abnormal heart rhythms.  People who chronically exercise at extreme levels tend to have thicker right atria (which receive deoxygenated blood from the veins) and larger right ventricles (which pump this blood out to the lungs to be oxygenated).  In fact, studies show that endurance athletes have five times the risk of atrial fibrillation, or fluctuations in the heartbeat that can trigger more serious problems such as stroke.

You may remember we discussed the health benefits of increasing levels of nitric oxide (NO) (with arginine) in previous newsletters (February 2012 and February 2013), and that it benefits all areas of cardiovascular health.  A recent study found reduced levels of NO in study subjects who participated in prolonged exercise, but not for those who exercised moderately.  Reduced NO results in - you guessed it - inflammation.

Caption on T-shirt seen at  the Ottawa Marathon several years ago

How to speed recovery from a marathon

If you're not convinced that perhaps running a marathon should be a once in a lifetime event (if that), here are some tips to help you recover more quickly:

20 marathon runners drank either tart cherry juice (made from Montmorency cherries) or a placebo for 5 days before the race and 2 days after.  Those who drank the cherry juice recovered their strength more quickly than the control group.  Inflammation and oxidative stress were also reduced in the group that drank the cherry juice. 

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Zambroza is a blend of the most healthful fruits and nutritional supplements from all over the world. Zambroza is replete with xanthones, bioflavonoids and powerful antioxidants. Bioflavonoids give fruits and vegetables their bright colors. In the body, bioflavonoids enhance vitamin C absorption and help maintain collagen and capillary walls. They also aid in the body’s immune–defense system.

Among Zambroza’s key ingredients is mangosteen, a tasty fruit found in eastern tropical nations, such as Thailand. Mangosteen contains the greatest known supply of compounds called xanthones. Xanthones offer powerful immune and cardiovascular support. Other ingredients in this nutritious juice include wolfberry, sea buckthorn, red grapes, grape seeds, grape skins, raspberries, blueberries, apple extract and green tea.

How much exercise is enough?

In a recent study presented at the American College of Sports Medicine, it was reported among 14,000 runners that the optimal amount of running appeared to be 10 to 15 miles per week.  Those who ran more seemed to lose any heart benefits, but their average life expectancy never decreased beyond that of sedentary people.

   What Should I Do?

Everyone, with few exceptions for some health conditions, benefits from at least 15 minutes a day, several days a week, of moderate activity.  This is enough to give you significant health benefits in relation to total couch potatoes, so if this is what works for you, that's perfectly fine.  The majority of health benefits actually occur at this level. 

Options for improving your health beyond this basic level include increasing the amount of time you spend being physically active, and increasing the intensity of the activity.  Most of us are busy, and find it difficult to find additional time to spend exercising. 

In addition, there are too many types of beneficial activity to mention here, but I'd like to put in a good word for yoga.  It's especially well known for reducing stress levels in addition to improving many aspects of health.  I highly recommend it.

High intensity interval training (HIIT)

If you are interested in achieving really high levels of fitness while avoiding the pitfalls of endurance training, you may be interested in high intensity interval training (HIIT) where exercising for short periods of time at very high intensity is interspersed with periods of moderate rest.  The workouts are short and involve as little as 4 minutes of intense activity combined with rest for a total workout of only around 20 minutes.  Because HIIT is so intense, you should only do it 2 to 3 times per week, maximum, making it a workout that anyone can fit into their schedules.  It's recommended that you do less intense exercise on days you don't do HIIT.

Here are the core principles (without specifying the activity):

  • Warm up for three minutes
  • Exercise as hard and fast as you can for 30 seconds. You should be gasping for breath and feel like you couldn't possibly go on another few seconds. It is better to use lower resistance and higher repetitions to increase your heart rate
  • Recover for 90 seconds, still moving, but at slower pace and decreased resistance
  • Repeat the high-intensity exercise and recovery 7 more times. (When you're first starting out, depending on your level of fitness, you may only be able to do two or three repetitions of the high-intensity intervals. As you get fitter, just keep adding repetitions until you're doing eight during your 20-minute session).  Or you can decide that a lower number, e.g. 6, is enough for you
  • Cool down for a few minutes afterward by cutting down your intensity by 50-80 percent

Note: If you have a history of heart disease or any medical concern please get clearance from your health care professional before you start this. Most people of average fitness will be able to do it though; it is only a matter of how much time it will take you to build up to the full routine.

Clearly, this just scratches the surface if HIIT, but I hope it gives you the idea, and if time for exercise is an issue for you (and you're reasonably healthy) you might be encouraged to look into this.

HIIT isn’t for everyone.  It’s an incredibly effective method for improving fitness in a short time, but it’s also extremely taxing on the body.  It’s best to start gradually and incorporate it into your training over time.  HIIT is particularly effective at reducing fat mass, and especially visceral fat, together with increases in aerobic power.  Therefore, it's very relevant as a partial solution to the obesity epidemic.

But don't underestimate the benefits of a good, old-fashioned walk most days, combined with some strength training.  Life doesn't have to be complicated!

   Products to Help with Exercise-related Inflammation

If, despite your best efforts to exercise moderately, you find yourself with stiff, sore muscles, Nature's Sunshine can help.

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Ongoing and cumulative studies have revealed that curcumin has powerful properties that have a beneficial effect on pain and inflammation. In fact curcumin has been shown to exert such a broad range of beneficial effects on various conditions that it has been referred to as the “pre-clinical cure-all.”

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L-arginine is the body's major source for nitric oxide synthesis, and studies show that L-arginine aids in maintaining healthy blood pressure levels, helps improve immune function, and stimulates the release of human growth hormone (HGH).  It may also boost energy levels, help to build muscle, and reduce adipose tissue (body fat).

For additional information, please email ramila@ramilas.com; or call Ramilas Healing Arts Clinic at 613.829.0427 for an appointment.  Please continue letting friends and family know about this newsletter.  Also on our website, please see back issues of this newsletter, additional information about products, order products, and see information about our Clinic.

  1. Kratz A, Lewandrowski KB, Siegel AJ, et al. Effect of marathon running on haematological and biochemical laboratory parameters, including cardiac markers. Am J Clin Pathol 2002;118:856-863.
  2. Park A. Extreme workouts: When exercise does more harm than good. http://healthland.time.com/2012/06/04/extreme-workouts-when-exercise-does-more-harm-than-good/ June 4, 2012.  Accessed April 16, 2014
  3. O'Keefe JH, Patil Hr, Lavie CJ et al. Potential adverse cardiovascular effects from excessive endurance exercise. Mayo Clin Proc 2012;87:587-595.
  4. Kazeem A, Olubayo A, Ganiyu A. Plasma nitric oxide and acute phase proteins after moderate and prolonged excercises. Iranian J Basic Med Sci 2012;602-607.
  5. Howatson G, McHugh MP, Hill JA et al. Influence of tart cherry juice on indices of recovery following marathon running. Scand J Med Sci Sports 2010;20:843-852.
  6. Mercola J. This interval training infographic helps you pick the right workout. June 21, 2013. http://fitness.mercola.com/sites/fitness/archive/2013/06/21/interval-training.aspx  Accessed May 14, 2014.
  7. Heydari M, Freund J, Boutcher SH. The effect of high-intensity intermittent exercise on body composition of overweight young males. J Obesity 2012;2012:1-8.
The suggestions and recommendations in this newsletter are not intended to be prescriptive or diagnostic. The information is accurate and up to date to our knowledge, but we are not responsible for any errors in our sources of information.

These newsletters will help you make better choices for better health. The choices that you make today can either have a positive or negative impact on your overall health. Begin by choosing better. It is a step toward longevity.


Ramila Padiachy
Ramila's Healing Arts Clinic