Can over-exercising lead to heart attacks? Key tips to keep your heart safe | Health

ByZarafshan Shiraz, New Delhi

In our quest for fitness and well-being, we often hear the phrase “Exercise is good for the heart” but while this is undeniably true, there’s a lesser-known side to this story that deserves attention: overexercising can potentially lead to heart attacks. In recent years, the world has seen a surge in the fitness industry, promoting rigorous exercise routines and pushing individuals to their limits.

Can over-exercising lead to heart attacks? Key tips to keep your heart safe (Photo by GRAHAM MANSFIELD on Unsplash)

In an interview with HT Lifestyle, Dr Abhijit Borse, Senior Interventional Cardiologist at Asian Heart Institute in Mumbai, shared, “Exercise can surely help lower blood pressure, reduce the risk of obesity, improve cholesterol levels and strengthen the heart muscle. While staying active is crucial for cardiovascular health, it’s equally important to strike a balance. Overexercising, often referred to as “excessive exercise,” occurs when an individual engages in intense workouts for extended periods without allowing their body sufficient time to rest and recover. While the intention behind these rigorous exercise routines is often to achieve peak physical fitness, they can inadvertently lead to serious health issues, including heart attacks.”

He cautioned, “Primary concerns with overexercising is the strain it places on the heart. During strenuous physical activity, the heart pumps more blood to supply oxygen and nutrients to the muscles. This is a normal response to exercise, and it helps improve the heart’s efficiency. However, when exercise is taken to the extreme, the heart can become overworked and fatigued, increasing the risk of adverse cardiac events. One common condition associated with overexercising is known as “athlete’s heart” or “exercise-induced cardiac remodeling.” In individuals who consistently push their bodies to the limits, the heart undergoes structural changes to accommodate the increased demand for blood flow. While these adaptations are generally benign in well-trained athletes, they can be problematic for those who over exercise without proper guidance or recovery.”

Dr Abhijit Borse pointed out the potential risks of overexercising as –

  • Increased Heart Rate: Over-exercising can lead to a persistent elevated heart rate, which, over time, may weaken the heart muscle and reduce its ability to pump effectively.
  • Irregular Heart Rhythms: Intense exercise without adequate recovery can trigger abnormal heart rhythms, such as arrhythmia (atrial fibrillation), which can increase the risk of blood clots and stroke.
  • Heart Disease: Excessive exercise can contribute to the development of heart disease, especially in individuals with preexisting risk factors.
  • Weakened Immune System: Overtraining can weaken the immune system, making individuals more susceptible to infections, which can indirectly impact heart health.

According to him, the key is finding a balance that suits your individual fitness level and goals and doing it in moderation. Dr Abhijit Borse suggested a few key tips to keep your heart safe –

  • Listen to Your Body: Pay attention to signs of fatigue, pain or excessive soreness. These are indications that your body needs rest.
  • Vary Your Exercise Routine: Incorporate a mix of cardio, strength and flexibility training to prevent overuse injuries and reduce the risk of overexercising.
  • Allow for Rest Days: Schedule regular rest days into your fitness routine to give your body time to recover and repair.
  • Consult a Professional: Consider working with a certified trainer or doctor who can help you create a balanced exercise plan tailored to your needs.

Remember that a healthy heart is not just about the quantity of exercise but also the quality and consistency of your fitness routine.

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