Dangers of extreme exercise: Here’s how it can be harmful and dangerous for your heart

By Dr Shalin Thakore,

While getting enough exercise is essential to maintaining good health, doing too much of a good thing can often have the opposite effect. Recent studies have shown that while moderate exercise is generally beneficial to health and helps maintain a physically fit body, intense exercise can be extremely harmful to the body. Your heart is the main pumping organ of your cardiovascular system. With the increase in exercise and encouraged workouts, it is important to consider the potential negative impact it can have on our bodies.

Age, health, and preferred exercise modality all play a part in establishing a regimen. However, recent studies have shown that excessive exercise has more negative effects than positive. The enormous strain placed on the heart by too much exercise has recently been shown to cause cardiac arrest in an increasing number of gym goers. Unfortunately, we have seen cases of cardiac arrest in gyms. Experts agree that overstraining the heart puts a heavy load on the circulatory system and can cause heart rhythm disturbances.

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Extreme endurance exercise has the potential to cause atrial fibrillation, which could trigger a cascade of adverse effects. Part of the increased risk of arrhythmias, which are disturbances in heart rhythm, and enlarged arteries is likely due to the combination of repeated high-volume, high-intensity strength training over time. Experts agree that the cardiovascular system takes a serious beating during prolonged periods of high endurance. Studies have shown that people with pre-existing heart conditions, such as coronary artery disease or hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, are more likely to experience sudden cardiac arrest after participating in high-intensity activities. Abnormal thickening of the heart muscle is a hallmark of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy.

Athletes who engage in extremely intense physical activity run the risk of suffering from hypoxia, or a lack of oxygen to the brain, as a result of their training. To get the most out of your training, you need to make sure you have enough oxygen. Aim for a blood oxygen saturation of at least 88%, and ideally 93%. The heart has to work harder and you have less energy when your oxygen level is low. Minutes after the first signs of hypoxia appear, irreparable damage can occur to the brain, heart, liver, and other organs and can also lead to organ failure.

Balanced exercise

Moderate exercise is better than too much. Moderate exercise like walking, running, swimming, or cycling improves heart health. The average person should get 150 minutes of exercise per week. Adults should aim to acquire about 5 hours of moderate exercise or about 2.5 hours of more vigorous activity per week or a mixture of both.

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Constantly training at high intensity requires careful attention and should only be done under the watchful eye of a trainer. As gyms grow in popularity, especially among young people, exercise regimens that include weightlifting require special supervision. Resistance workouts increase both systolic and diastolic blood pressures, while mobility activities simply increase systolic. Blood pressure measurements are systolic and diastolic. This sudden increase in diastolic pressure can cause a heart attack or cardiac arrest.

Eating well is the key

In order to maintain good health in general, a healthy and balanced diet is crucial. The two go hand in hand, so make sure your diet complements your workouts. For optimal physical and mental health, it is essential to follow a nutritious diet and exercise regularly.

High-intensity exercise combined with reduced caloric intake can lead to nutritional deficits as the body will draw on its nutrient stores. Weight loss through fad diets is associated with an increased risk of malnutrition, which in turn increases the risk of anemia, heart disease, stroke, mental decline, and more. You need to watch what you eat to be healthy. After an intense workout, fueling up on high-quality carbs and protein aids in recovery and repair of muscle fiber damage while increasing circulation to working muscles.

Rest is underrated

While ‘physical activity’ is important, so are ‘rest days’. Taking time off at regular intervals allows your body to rest and recharge. Exercise can sometimes cause mild muscle damage. However, specialized repair cells called fibroblasts work there while you sleep. This promotes recovery and growth, which builds muscle. Working out depletes the glycogen stored by your muscles. If these supplies are not replenished, muscle fatigue and discomfort are inevitable.

(The author is Senior Interventional Cardiologist, Shalby Hospitals Ahmedabad. Opinions expressed are personal and do not reflect the official position or policy of FinancialExpress.com.)

Disclaimer – The article is for informational purposes only. Please consult medical experts and healthcare professionals before beginning any therapy, medication and/or remedy.

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