Extreme Exercise Pushes the Limits of Safety

Mind and Body

Extreme exercise is a mental encounter with an apocalyptic agenda. It depends on extraordinary physical conditioning. There is scant evidence extreme exercise improves one’s physical well-being, but it may be harmful.

 Extreme Exercise Pushes the Limits of Safety

Extreme Exercise Calls for Caution

Extreme exercise goes beyond vigorous, strenuous, and intensive exercise. It is like learning to shoot with a bb-gun, then upgrading to the big-bore, highest velocity, Smith and Wesson XVR 460 Magnum described by Maxim (July 24, 2015) as “seriously bad-ass.” You know extreme exercise when you see it, but it’s hard to define. It feeds the need to feel in control. It pushes limits on muscle toning, weight control, cardio and strength gain that can be attained with moderate exercise including walking, jogging, running, weight training, yoga, and Eastern philosophies of mind-body workouts.

Extreme sports enthrall people for the health and safety risks from daring speeds, heights, and physical exertion. Extreme exercise pushes the physical, mental, and metabolic to the outer edge of safe. There is a growing database of scientific knowledge that extreme exercise is a sui generis danger, so schools and exercise facilities must be cautious about promoting them.

A Mayo Clinic Proceedings report recently warned readers that “Regular, moderate physical activity is good for the heart and can help you live longer, but excessive endurance training can wipe out many of the benefits of exercise.” Mayo Clinic studied athletes who run marathons, Iron Man, and ultra-marathons and participate in long-distance bicycling.

Everything in Moderation

We know stress takes its toll on health and productivity, costing employers $300 billion a year. It makes people sick and costs the health-care system many more billions (GreenPointGlobal.com August 12, 2016). A 2016 study in Molecular Psychiatry reports stress in women can override positive effects of healthy food choices. Other studies show that moderate exercise can relieve the effects of stress and prevent diabetes, high cholesterol, and blood pressure.

At the same time, extreme exercise is dangerous. Emerging findings from studies on the effects of extreme exercise suggest deleterious effects:

* Heartbeats of exercise addicts and obsessive athletes precipitously rise possibly inducing hypertension and arrhythmia,

* Muscle stiffness from extreme exercise cause more injuries, and

* Extreme athletes seem to suffer more instances of exhaustion, depression, and suicide.

Phys-ed and health club programmers need tools to safely motivate athletes. A cardiologist in Illinois donates time and expertise examining school athletes for previously undetected cardiac abnormalities to forefend problems. Another useful tool is an exercise-addiction screening-inventory survey. The psychometric instrument developed by Mark Griffiths (British Journal of Medicine July 2005) does not take long to administer and keeps scoring and interpretations uncomplicated.

Outsourcing efforts to program and test athletes are likely going to make extreme exercise safer for athletes and reassure program administrators. Outsourcers can help program extreme exercise and sports, employing the least deleterious but best practices.

Dr. Goldmeier was a Research and Teaching Fellow at Harvard University, where he received his Doctorate in Education. He is a former consultant to the US Surgeon General on federally funded Maternal and Child Health programs. Currently, he teaches international university students and serves as a business analyst and development consultant for companies and nonprofit organizations. His new ebook on Amazon is Healthcare Insights: Better Care Better Business.

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