Wed. Mar 22nd, 2023

The news about late stand up comedian Raju Srivastav collapsing on the treadmill in his gym is making people fear the lesser known consequences of working out. Many believe that it’s over exercising that’s leading to their sudden demise. We spoke to two leading cardiologists to understand the risks involved in working out and things people should keep in mind and more.

According to Dr. Vivek Chaturvedi, Professor & HOD, Cardiology, Amrita Hospital, Faridabad, “When you’re working out, the basic concept one must follow is to avoid ‘Too much, too fast’. Too many reps, too much weight, or too much running, too soon escalating it, is not good, especially as your age progresses. Also, especially if you haven’t been very active since childhood. A large population of India in their 30s and 40s, who weren’t really active since childhood, or had left physical activity in between, but now they find time to work out, and want to become fit, very fast, one should be really careful about it, in terms of practical tips, if any exercise makes you feel nauseous, dizzy or that you will collapse, that is a warning sign for you to stop then and there.”

Dr. Gajinder Kumar Goyal, Director Cardiology, Marengo QRG Hospital, Faridabad adds, “Moderate exercises like brisk walking, jogging, cycling, swimming etc for 150 minutes in a week are sufficient to keep our heart healthy. Although vigorous exercise is not harmful for the body but who already have heart disease should avoid strenuous exercises. Overall it’s recommended that we should not exercise for more than an hour in a day.”

What are the biggest risk factors for the heart?

Although heart risks are not 100% predictable, unfortunate things can happen out of the blue. But for most people, it is because of the presence of a risk factor. Some of these are preventable lifestyle risk factors, for eg;- smoking, diabetes, high BP, high cholesterol, overweight, too much alcohol, too much consumption of preserved food and lack of activity, explains Dr Vivek.

How important is knowing your family history?

There are some risk factors that are beyond our control. “Like Indians are somehow predisposed to heart disease and the fact that if you have a family history of heart attacks, this also disposes you. So, if you are planning to get into vigorous physical activity like joining a gym, or marathon or going on a trek, these things put unnatural strain on your body suddenly hence it is better to visit your physician first and assess all risks. After which you may be asked to go ahead with the activity or you may be asked to do a treadmill test or a few blood tests like glucose, cholesterol. But the bottom line is 100% risk cannot be assessed.”

Dr Goyal explains, “Those who have a family history of heart disease are at 50 to 60% increased risk of heart disease especially when a first degree male relative like father or brother has suffered from heart disease in less than 55 years of age and female relative has suffered heart disease less than 65 of age.”

Read more: Did you know there is a blood test to predict heart attack risk?

But this does not mean people with family history should stay scared their whole life, but they should avoid acquiring more risk factors like smoking, diabetes, blood pressure and high bodyweight and in such people our targets for starting treatments for cholesterol etc. tend to be more aggressive, and such patients are advised to get accessed before going for any vigorous physical activity, adds Dr Vivek.

Dos and don’ts of workout

Once you cross 30, the duration of a warm up and cool down session during workout should be more than that of youngsters.

Something very important, especially in Indians, is that you should avoid working out in extreme temperatures

You should feel comfortable with your own level of workout, one should not elevate workout according to others because that is often a cause for problems. Dr Vivek explains, “For example, people ask at what speed they should walk. Usually, it is said brisk walk is good for heart disease prevention, so they ask what the speed should be while brisk walk. The speed can be different between a 15-year-old and an 85 year old. What is important is to remember that at whatever speed you will have difficulty in forming a sentence, it is a brisk walk for you. This can vary from one person to another. You can make your own standard speed.”

Is cardio better for the heart than strength training?

There are a lot of claims that strength training is better than cardio. I think they are complementary to each other, and both should be done on a regular basis. They have a common advantage as well as exclusive advantages. For example, preservation of your bone density, and preservation of muscle mass is better with strength training, while heart health and longevity is connected to endurance training. So, I think one should not think of this or that, rather combine it. Recommendation is 2 or 3 days or sessions of strength training in a week and 2 or 3 sessions of endurance training. In a way all strength training also increases endurance and all endurance training also increases strength. Hence it is interconnected, concludes Dr Vivek.

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