Every year about 720,000 Americans have a heart attack; for more than 200,000 of them, it’s not their first.i Heart disease is still the number one killer in the United States, but we are making strides toward improving nationwide heart health by increasing awareness about healthy lifestyle choices such as eating well and staying active. When it comes to exercise, however, a new study found that overdoing it may have the opposite effect.
Researchers at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California recently completed a decade-long study in which they analyzed the effects of increased physical activity on nearly 2,400 heart attack survivors. While increased exercise was shown to reduce the risk of dying from a heart attack by up to 65 percent, excessive exercise—running more than 30 miles a week or walking beyond 46 miles weekly—more than doubled the risk of having another attack.
Although only a small portion of the study participants were excessive exercisers (6%), study author and staff scientist Paul Williams cautions against overdoing it when it comes to physical activity post-heart attack. “More isn’t always better,” said Williams, recommending heart attack survivors stick to the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans developed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity exercise weekly.