Exercise-Related Acute Cardiovascular Events and Potential Deleterious Adaptations Following Long-Term Exercise Training: Placing the Risks Into Perspective-An Update: A Scientific Statement From the American Heart Association

Circulation. 2020 Mar 31;141(13):e705-e736. doi: 10.1161/CIR.0000000000000749. Epub 2020 Feb 26.


Epidemiological and biological plausibility studies support a cause-and-effect relationship between increased levels of physical activity or cardiorespiratory fitness and reduced coronary heart disease events. These data, plus the well-documented anti-aging effects of exercise, have likely contributed to the escalating numbers of adults who have embraced the notion that "more exercise is better." As a result, worldwide participation in endurance training, competitive long distance endurance events, and high-intensity interval training has increased markedly since the previous American Heart Association statement on exercise risk. On the other hand, vigorous physical activity, particularly when performed by unfit individuals, can acutely increase the risk of sudden cardiac death and acute myocardial infarction in susceptible people. Recent studies have also shown that large exercise volumes and vigorous intensities are both associated with potential cardiac maladaptations, including accelerated coronary artery calcification, exercise-induced cardiac biomarker release, myocardial fibrosis, and atrial fibrillation. The relationship between these maladaptive responses and physical activity often forms a U- or reverse J-shaped dose-response curve. This scientific statement discusses the cardiovascular and health implications for moderate to vigorous physical activity, as well as high-volume, high-intensity exercise regimens, based on current understanding of the associated risks and benefits. The goal is to provide healthcare professionals with updated information to advise patients on appropriate preparticipation screening and the benefits and risks of physical activity or physical exertion in varied environments and during competitive events.

Keywords: AHA Scientific Statements; J-shaped curve; cardiorespiratory fitness; exercise; high-intensity interval training; physical exertion; risk assessment; risk of exercise.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Acute Disease
  • Adaptation, Physiological
  • Adult
  • American Heart Association
  • Coronary Artery Disease / etiology*
  • Coronary Artery Disease / pathology
  • Exercise / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Risk Factors
  • United States