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  • velocite

    Good to have such a clearly written, authoritative presentation of this important aspect of our health. Thanks.

  • jules

    I know one fellow middle age cyclist, highly trained, very strong rider with an incredible VO2 (measured) and.. AF. sample of 1 :)

  • Simon T

    heart is like any other muscle
    needs rest
    athletes are racing more events at a higher level than say 25yrs ago
    not just cycling, soccer and tennis players

    • jules

      I doubt Bernie Tomic is going to suffer heart or any problems from over-exertion

      • DaveRides

        Maybe not from exertion on the court, but his efforts at Maccas on the way home from training can’t be good.

        • jules

          The only way Bernie’s heart will become enlarged is if he swallows a Big Mac the wrong way and it becomes lodged there.

          • DaveRides

            Or even the right way. Everyone knows the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.

          • Simon T

            Fructose or sugar

  • Ryan S

    I got heart arrhythmia at just age 25… after seriously competing in cycling since my early teenage years (age 13). I’m 30 now. I probably had it for years prior to diagnosis, but didn’t notice it (and seek help), until I took a backseat in cycling at age 24 when I stopped training to be competitive. I sometimes especially wonder about the health effects on younger junior riders, whose bodies are still rapidly developing. Conversely, I know older Masters riders who ate moderately healthy and trained/exercised as much as cyclists do for years, and still ended up with hearth issues. The body is a fickle thing, and maybe we’re just not made to spend four hours in the saddle every day…

  • DaveRides

    I’ve heard it suggested that a fair number of the heart problems picked up in elite athletes may often be latent problems which were present before they reached that level and would therefore also be present in the general population, but only discovered because elite athletes get higher level medical care than the general population.

    Can you comment on this Dr Andre?

  • Michele

    I was diagnosed with dilated cardiomyopathy at the age of 19. Was life-changing, still on plenty of life-sustaining meds 25 years later.

    [For any docs out there – At worse, my left ventricle end-diastolic diameter [LVED] got to 98 mm. Normal is anywhere between 42-59. Anything above 69 considered severe. My shortening fraction was 14%. Believe it was from a viral infection, and not hereditary].

    At the time of diagnosis; my cardiologist explained to me that I was lucky. My symptoms became so obvious that I went to the doctors. He explained that I’d be surprised how many apparent fit and healthy young adults would go to sleep and never wake up. Their autopsies would later reveal a heart condition they knew nothing about.

    • jules

      I heard of a friend-of-a-friend just dropping dead. Heart condition. He had no idea. A young family. Happens all the time I guess.

  • Marc

    I am an example of a cyclist competing at a pretty high level who ended up with heart problems. I’m convinced it’s because of all the hours I spent on the bike. Cycling is addictive and it requires a lot of training. You feel the fatigue in your legs, but not in your heart, notwithstanding that it is also a muscle that needs recovery. I had my overtraining, took months off, only to start again trying to push my boundaries and getting as much out of my body as possible.

    Doing 20 hours a week is not healthy and our bodies are not made for it. Another big worry is the current trend among cycling ‘coaches’ to focus on intensity. I see riders without a solid base doing 4 or 5 high intensity rides a week, for months on end. If you want to cycle competitively, make sure you find yourself a good coach who knows everything about a proper training-rest balance. Unfortunately they’re hard to find nowadays.

    One last thing, the elephant in the room: PED’s. If not directly affecting the heart (like EPO making your blood thicker), it enables you to train harder and recover faster than your body is naturally capable of, they can also mask fatigue. You’ll get great results, but in the long run, your heart may have to pay the price and in a lot of cases does. The same goes for quite some legal supplements.

  • Excellent article. Thank you.

  • Bones

    I imagine he purposely did not include the effect of PED’s as that throws quite a few variables that can’t be known.

    • Milessio

      . . . . including which young elite athlete would detail their PED regime for science?

  • Jon

    http://www.runnersworld.com/heart/can-running-kill-you

    There is a great deal of misinformation that permeates the interwebs… The above article is a wonderful complement to this piece.

    At the end of the day, there is still much work that needs to be done and the conclusions of the previous studies attempting to establish a causal relationship between endurance athletes and cardiac issues left much to be desired.

  • OverIt

    Great article :)

    My “logic” has me thinking…

    Generally speaking, the ONLY “activity” the human body is “designed” to do for hours on end is walking. Evident by the fact that, (save for the obese), any “normal” person of healthy BMI can do so for long periods of time more or less regardless of their VO2 max capacity. Evolution shaped our bipedal motion into an extremely efficient way of moving about, and it can do so without barely raising a sweat and its heart-rate.

    Other higher stresses, (exercises that elicit far great body adaptation responses), must then surely come with a cost, and the need to rest to recover and the body to adapt. So there must logically be a limit to this adaptation response, or injury will occur as physical limits are exceeded. Look at how a bodybuilder takes nutrition and rest so very seriously. He simply wont grow without both in ample supply. Cardio is no different, but the muscle stressed most is that poor little heart..

    It’s more or less possible to “rest” every muscle in the body and even many organs to some degree, via sleep, immobilization, fasting etc. EXCEPT FOR 1, – that poor heart NEVER stops, It somehow manages to beat for 70+ years without ever stopping and truly is a marvel. But common sense must surely say it has a limit, but it seems our brains mechanism for “listening” to our bodies need to rest a recover get overridden by stupid desires to be faster than the next guy and win win win to keep my sponsor…….

    I think for most people, cycling is extremely beneficial, but even the “keen” cyclist can quite easily push to far even if they aren’t competing, the addictive nature, long hours and sometimes body weight obsession can push too far and not be countered properly by good diet and rest & recovery. Professional sport takes it several steps up the ladder and into the RED.

    I love cycling, but it’s not the ONLY way to keep fit, (and nor should it be).

  • Ben

    Well written and thought provoking article – you often don’t stop to consider the impact of years and years of endurance training and racing may have on the heart in particular….again back to the ol’ adage of everything in moderation ?

  • Sunwukim

    Great article and some thought-provoking comments.

    One dangling question: what about running or, more specifically, higher-intensity activities that have greater periods of rest between them? For example, does running ~ 6 hrs per week versus riding ~ 15 hrs per week result in the same effects on the heart? In other words, do the VO2 gains and risks remain constant across activities? Maybe there’s a difference between a well-rested big heart and and exhausted one.

    Here’s hoping Dr. La Gerche keeps us posted!

  • SILVIO LUIZ MARQUES

    Too much training? No, too muchas drugs!

  • Steffen Kriesch

    You forget factors like training when sick. and PEDs

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