Is exercise harmful?

Is exercise harmful?

Dr David Stensil
Dr David Stensel is Reader in Exercise Metabolism, School of Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences, Loughborough University

This year's BHFNC annual conference theme is Just Good Medicine. The event will explore the role of physical activity in the prevention and management of long term conditions. Dr David Stensel from Loughborough University will be speaking. His session will consider the evidence around whether physical activity could potentially be harmful and if the public health benefits outweigh any risks. He gave us a preview of what he'll be speaking about on the day.


"A large volume of evidence supports the view that exercise is beneficial to physical and mental health in a wide variety of ways including (though not limited to) reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer, type 2 diabetes, overweight and obesity, dementia and depression. Evidence also suggests that the majority of the British (and global) population is insufficiently active and hence not obtaining as much health benefit from exercise as they could be. At the other end of the spectrum are professional sportsmen and women across a variety of individual and team sports pushing their bodies through extreme volumes and intensities of exercise in the pursuit of sporting glory. In addition, there are those in middle-age who embark on new exercise regimes in an attempt to recapture their sporting youth or to get fit for the first time in their lives (one such group have been labelled MAMILs (middle-aged men in Lycra!). Some have questioned the effects of extreme amounts of exercise on physical and mental health and one area in particular where controversy remains is the effects of exercise on heart health.


"Many studies suggest that exercise is beneficial to heart health. Perhaps most notable among these is the study of Professor Jeremy Morris and colleagues on London bus drivers and bus conductors demonstrating lower rates of heart disease among the more physically active conductors. In recent years, however, there have been several high profile episodes of heart attack in professional sports people (most notably perhaps Fabrice Muamba in 2012) many of which have resulted in death. In addition to this is a small but growing literature suggesting that in some situations and for some activities in particular, exercise may be harmful to heart health not only increasing the risk of heart attack but also leading to cardiac arrhythmia with potentially serious consequences for health. My talk will examine this literature in an effort to enhance understanding about the effects of exercise, both good and bad, on heart health."



This year's annual conference will be held in partnership with the National Centre for Sport and Exercise Medicine. For more information on the programme and to book your place visit


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