David Stalker blog post: Andrew Marr and exercise

This week much of the health media coverage has focussed on Andrew Marr’s statement at the weekend that his stroke was caused following a session of high intensity interval training on a rowing machine.

Does Andrew Marr’s stroke tell us it’s time to slow down? (The Telegraph)
Andrew Marr’s stroke caused by intense exercise (The Telegraph)
Andrew Marr: I’m lucky to be alive after stroke (BBC)

As the body representing providers of physical activity, a number of people have asked what our position is on this. I am not a medical professional and I therefore cannot comment on the scientific side to this; it’s obviously a sensitive and divisive issue, though I would point you in the direct of both the Stroke Association and NHS Choices, who have issued statements on this matter.

The Stroke Association make the very valid point that there is more research to be done into this area, and that broadly speaking exercise is actually vital in the prevention of stroke and also the rehabilitation of stroke victims.

They say:

“Regular exercise is an important factor in stroke prevention and recovery. We have heard anecdotally that some activities like vigorous exercise can sometimes cause blood vessels to burst. We need more research on the underlying factors that might make that happen. We do know that high blood pressure itself is the single biggest cause of stroke, until more research is done on specific triggers we’d suggest getting your blood pressure checked and taking steps to keep it under control, exercise can help with that.”

Dr Chris Beedie, who heads up the ukactive Research Institute says on this matter:

“All physical activity is associated with some level of risk, although for the vast majority of the population these risks are outweighed by the substantial health benefits. All other things being equal, the risks in question do however tend to increase with the severity of the activity. The situation described in recent media stories highlights two things; firstly the importance of pre-exercise health screening for individuals with pre-existing health conditions to identify the degree to which physical activity might represent a risk to you as an individual (the risk in question is as much a function of your genetics, and your health history and lifestyle habits as it is a function of the activity itself). Second, it highlights the importance of seeking professional guidance in deciding on exactly what type and intensity of physical activity is appropriate for you. Perhaps most saliently though, the story in question highlights the risks of relying on uninformed or unbalanced information – in this case media reports – in deciding what activity is right for you. Media reports often provide the newsworthy angle on a story – for example ‘5 minutes of very high intensity exercise might be as good for you as 40 minutes of moderate intensity’ – without always providing the whole picture. The ‘whole picture’ in this case is that very high intensity exercise also carries higher levels of risk. “

A number of commentators have made some very good points about the relative risk of exercise; including James Timmons at the end of this Daily Mail article.

We wish Mr Marr and his family all the best as he works towards recovery following his stroke, and we hope that this unfortunate incident won’t dissuade people from being able to enjoy the many health benefits offered by regular physical activity.

Posted in: celebrity, David Stalker, exercise, HIIT, safety


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