Is intense exercise good or bad for the long term?

Pretty straightforward. Is there anyone who has an (expert, hopefully) opinion on this: If you do intense exercise (weight training included)?

Telomeres are at the ends of your DNA strands. Everytime DNA splits into a new cell, the telomeres or the telomere distance gets shorter. If you are adding bulk and doing exercises for your muscles to need to repair themselves after a workout, it seems like this might make your telomeres shorter faster. Plus, intense workouts seem like they could be hard on the joints of your body. These two factors seem like they should result in premature aging and decreased longevity.

Browsing a few titles of search results on bing, it looks like there is a correlation with (at least weight training) keeping you young.

Good long term.

The simple is that exerise in general has many benefits and including resistance exercise is important. Exercise in general decreases the risk of developing dementia later in life and even progression of extant brain disease like Parkinson Disease (PD).

Also a major cause of disability as people age is age-related loss of muscle mass and strength, referred to as sarcopenia. Entering that period of life with more muscle mass is protective and ongoing resistance activity can prevent or even partially reverse the process.

High intensity weight training helps prevent and treat depression as well, improving quality of life, and strengthens the bones.

The list goes on. Exercise, including some intensity, including weight training, helps one live longer and healthier. Less likely to develop dementia, diabetes, depression, or high blood pressure, to break bones, and much more able to be productive longer and to function independently for longer yet.

When I was in physical therapy I asked my PT who ended up in the best shape at advanced age. She didn’t even have to think about it; she said people who keep on working their bodies. The only thing she specifically mentioned, though, was yoga. I figure the old ladies of the time (this was 10 years ago) probably would not have been much involved in weight training.

Exercise is, of course, very good for your physical and mental health. But as the Greeks said, “Everything in moderation.” I know a person who trained very intensely for an ironman triathlon, but he was doing several of them in a year. He eventually became extremely fatigued. I’ve known runners who had Guillain-Barre syndrome. I do not think there is any evidence that extreme exercise can cause that, but it is possible, as well as the related chronic fatigue syndrome.

Some years ago I used to read the Lancet, a periodical for doctors, although I am not a medical doctor. I remember reading about an extreme exerciser’s autopsy. It was discovered that he had certain cardiac problems because of his repeated and extreme exercise. A cardiac muscle is very similar to a skeletal muscle. After exercising, you must give the muscle time to recover. That’s why you should work the same muscle group only every other day and not every day, unless it is very light work.

Yes, exercise can overdone. There is however a very large margin between what most do as “intense exercise (weight training included)” and that level.

There is not only no evidence that “extreme exercise” can cause Guillan-Barre, there is no reason to think it would. Yes, training for and completing several Ironman triathlons a year may result in overtraining and fatigue. Yes, intense exercise every day with no breaks can set one up for injury. But somehow I do not think that that was what the op was asking about and while injuries can be lasting they are not the same as aging and overtraining is something that rest fixes, not something that causes premature aging.

Excessive exercise can weaken your immune system. It is well documented that, although some exercise can boost your immune system, too much can make you susceptible to the cold viruses. Likewise it is possible that you can be more susceptible to the Epstein Barre virus.

That’s Ebstein Barr Virus (EBV) which is the major cause of infectious mononuclosis, not directly related to Guillian Barre. Guillan Barre is an autoimmune disorder, an excessive immune response, which can, rarely, follow some infectious diseases (including EBV), but it is a pretty odd stretch to suppose that one might have immune suppression and therefore be slightly more likely to catch a virus that you might possibly then have an overactive immune reaction to …

And not related to aging or lifespan.

Again, excessive exercise not good. Intense exercise (including weight training) as part of a mix in a regular exercise program, not to excess, definitely associated with longer and healthier lifespan. Fairly few Americans are too near the excessive end of the spectrum.

Yoga is a form of bodyweight training, and people who practice advanced yoga forms regularly will develop considerable strength. They won’t bulk up like a bodybuilder, nor perform standing presses with 400 lbs of weight on a barbel, but they will have considerable core and leg strength, and depending on the specific forms, may have substantial upper body strength as well.

Strength training, like other forms of exercise, can be overdone, especially if the body is not allowed to recover and prepare between sessions. But maintaining good fitness, including the strength and flexibility benefits provided with bodyweight training such as yoga or suspension training, will allow you to experience less injury, maintain greater overall fitness, and in general be physically far more active much later into advanced age than someone with sedentary habits. Diet is also a factor in this, naturally, and consuming a well-balanced diet with a good mix of nutrients is also critical to health in later years, but the two complement each other rather than serve to compensate for a lack of one.


As for the op’s c/o telomeres and cellular senescence …

Exercise reduces telomere erosion in both mice and in human endurance athletes (young professional middle and long distance runners and middle aged marathoners and triathletes).

And not sure if this is behind a wall or not, but there may be effects of exercise on the overall aging of the immune system as a whole (albeit the data is sparse and not completely consistent).

Cancer has been to no small degree considered a natural consequence of the aging process. It is interesting in that regard that the physically fit have lower cancer rates. at least in men.

So clearly do not overtrain but exercise, including some intensity and resistance training, seems to protect your telomeres and delays some of the aging process. Keeps you young? That would be overselling it. But younger than you otherwise would be.