Exercise and the heart--the harm of too little and too much

Curr Sports Med Rep. 2015 Mar-Apr;14(2):104-9. doi: 10.1249/JSR.0000000000000134.


Physical activity and exercise training are underutilized by much of Westernized society, and physical inactivity may be the greatest threat to health in the 21st century. Many studies have shown a linear relationship between one's activity level and heart health, leading to the conclusion that "if some exercise is good, more must be better." However, there is evolving evidence that high levels of exercise may produce similar or less overall cardiovascular (CV) benefits compared with those produced by lower doses of exercise. Very high doses of exercise may be associated with increased risk of atrial fibrillation, coronary artery disease, and malignant ventricular arrhythmias. These acute bouts of excessive exercise may lead to cardiac dilatation, cardiac dysfunction, and release of troponin and brain natriuretic peptide. The effects of too little and too much exercise on the heart are reviewed in this article, along with recommendations to optimize the dose of exercise to achieve heart health.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Arrhythmias, Cardiac / epidemiology
  • Arrhythmias, Cardiac / etiology
  • Arrhythmias, Cardiac / prevention & control*
  • Death, Sudden, Cardiac / epidemiology
  • Death, Sudden, Cardiac / etiology
  • Death, Sudden, Cardiac / prevention & control
  • Exercise / physiology*
  • Heart / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Physical Endurance / physiology*
  • Physical Exertion / physiology
  • Sedentary Behavior*