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If a Little Bit is Good . . .

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“If I take two fish oil pills a day to increase my intake of omage-3 fatty acids, four pills a day would be better. If I drink 8 glasses of water a day to make sure my kidneys are functioning well, 12 glasses of water would be better. If I run 5 miles a day to improve my heart function, 10 miles a day would be better.”

According to Dr. James O’Keefe and his colleagues at St. Luke’s Mid-America Heart Institute in Kansas City, MO, this is not true. They have recently published data suggesting that extreme endurance exercising (20 to 50 miles or more of running a day) is not only not beneficial, but is probably detrimental to the health of your heart.

They reported that exercise at those levels (extreme marathon running, Tour d’France bicycle riding, English Channel swimming) leads to scarring and stiffening of the walls of the heart, especially the parts where the electrical system of the heart is located. This can lead to increases in irregular heart rhythms, some of which are lethal, by as much as 5 times the normal level.

Dr. O’Keefe stated that this does not mean that exercise is bad for your heart health. Moderate exercise (walking, jogging, swimming 30 minutes to an hour a day) is one of the most beneficial things you can do to strengthen your heart. However, extreme endurance exercising does not improve your heart health. It might impress your friends, but it can be harmful or lethal.

What is the principle involved here? As with everything you might do to improve your health – eating a variety of foods in moderate amounts, exposing your skin to ½ hour of sunlight a day, getting 7-8 hours of sleep each night – a moderate amount of these activities is extremely beneficial. However, an excessive amount of good food, extreme exposure to the sun, 12-14 hours of sleep a day, and an excessive amount ofexercise all have destructive effects on your body.

The key to maintaining a healthy body is avoiding destructive activities (smoking, alcohol intake, illicit drugs, stimulants, suntanning beds, mega-doses of vitamins, texting while driving) and using moderate amounts of beneficial activities. It is not about impressing your friends. It is not about proving to yourself that you can do it. It is not about punishing yourself for indulging over Thanksgiving or failing to exercise for a week.

The human body is a delicate machine that requires careful maintenance and thoughtful usage. More than that, the human body is a gift from the Creator that houses the most powerful computer and communicative tool in the world (the human brain). God has designed this computer to speak multiple languages, to calculate at blinding speed, to discern danger, to imagine and to create what it imagines, to empathize compassionately with other created beings, and to speak and reason with the Creator Himself. The physical body, which houses this amazing computer, must maintain its own health or the brain will suffer a decrease in computing and communicating power. Therefore, maintaining physical health is not optional; it is imperative.

When considering how much of a good thing to use or to do, remember moderation. In fact, a Biblical insight would be helpful here: “Whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” 1 Corinthians 10:31

Author

Max Wayne Hammonds was born Aug 3, 1943, in northeastern Indiana, in the county hospital in Wabash. He attended high school and college in his home town of North Manchester and attended Indiana University Medical School in Indianapolis. Following an internship in South Bend, IN and a year of flight medicine in the Air Force, he took a residency in anesthesiology at Wilford Hall Medical Center at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, TX.