Fit yet most vulnerable to fatalities: Do fitness fanatics overdo gymming?

New Delhi, Dec 31 (IANS) Over the past few months, there has been a number of sudden cardiac deaths in relatively young, and seemingly healthy individuals in various parts of the country — leaving millions gasping for answers as cases of new Covid variant JN.1 increase with deaths being reported in the country.

In the pursuit of fitness, a puzzling paradox has emerged, causing great consternation especially among those who exercise.

According to Dr. Aashish Contractor, Director, Rehabilitation and Sports Medicine, Sir H.N. Reliance Foundation Hospital in Mumbai, on social media, it is common to attribute some of the deaths in young and fit persons, to excessive exercise.

“It is important to keep in mind that sudden cardiac death very rarely occurs in someone with a healthy heart. Exercise may be the trigger to have a cardiac event in individuals who have undetected or silent heart disease, but it is almost never the cause,” Dr Contractor told IANS.

However, the recent toll of lives lost post-exercise prompts reflection on the risk of overexertion.

“Influential fitness enthusiasts, shaping ideals through social media, set benchmarks that sometimes border on extremes,” said Dr Digvijay D Nalawade, Interventional Cardiologist, DPU Private Super Speciality Hospital, Pimpri, Pune.

D. Sameer Gupta, Senior Interventional Cardiologist, Group Director – Cardiac Cath Lab at Metro Hospital in Noida said that many people are overdoing their exercises leading to their physical and mental health issues.

“There are a number of possible reasons for the occurrence of individuals developing health problems or losing their lives after exercising. Fitness trends and social media may contribute to exaggerated exercise regimens and unrealistic goals which may cause some people to overdo it,” he told IANS.

Exercise fanatics may be driven to extremes by peer pressure, a need for instant gratification, and a lack of understanding of their own limitations.

“The increased number of cardiac arrests that occur during workouts may be related to a number of heart-related issues. Particularly for those who are not used to regular exercise, abrupt and intense physical effort can put stress on the cardiovascular system,” Dr Gupta explained.

These occurrences may be caused by improper warm-up, pre-existing heart problems, and insufficient medical screening prior to vigorous exercise.

“It emphasises how crucial it is to seek medical advice from experts, go through comprehensive health evaluations, and gradually level up the intensity of exercise to protect heart health when engaging in fitness activities,” the doctor noted.

In terms of a single episode of exercise, there is no absolute upper limit defined, and it all depends on the individual’s training level.

One should avoid high levels of unaccustomed exertion, the rule of thumb being that any given bout of exercise should not be more than a 10 per cent increase compared to previous bouts, advise health experts.

Research has shown that a very large volume of exercise over several decades might cause some changes in the heart muscle, as well as accumulation of calcium in the coronary arteries.

“At this point, the amount of exercise has not been defined, and the consequences of these changes have not been fully understood. However, it is well known that to reap optimum health benefits, moderate exercise is the way to go,” said Dr Contractor.

Dr Gupta said that strength training, flexibility training, and cardiovascular activities should all be incorporated into a fitness routine.

“Aim for 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity or at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity per week, in addition to two or more days of muscle-strengthening activities. Heart health can be enhanced by a well-rounded fitness programme that includes both strength training and aerobic activities,” he said.

It is advisable for individuals to consult with their healthcare providers before initiating or making significant changes to their exercise routine, added Dr Nalawade.

“In this age of wellness enthusiasm, the true challenge is not just intense exercise but wisely moderating it — a delicate balance between pushing limits and safeguarding holistic health,” he noted.

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