HIIT

Is this exercise hurting your heart?

Generally speaking, exercise is good for your heart as it keeps your heart and lungs strong. But what if we told you that there was a type of exercise that was putting your heart at risk? It may be hard to believe, but it’s true.

There are numerous studies that link regular exercise with improved cardiovascular health. A spokesperson at the British Heart Foundation (BHF) explained, “Your heart is a muscle and it needs exercise to keep it strong and make it work harder and more effectively. Exercise also has a positive impact on risk factors that contribute to coronary heart disease, helps you control stress levels, and lowers blood pressure, weight, and cholesterol.”

It’s pretty common then that exercise is ideal for your heart, unless you complete this type of exercise.

This exercise puts your heart at risk

A 2014 study published in the journal Heart uncovered that high-intensity interval training—known as HIIT—may increase the risk of death from a heart attack or increase the risk of developing an irregular heartbeat.

Personal trainer Niko Algieri explained, “Too much of anything is bad for you though so if you’re constantly performing HIIT every day you’re going to stress your body and heart, and not give it time to heal. In addition to heart health, too much of the stress hormone, cortisol, in the body can lead to loss of muscle, fat retention and increase your risk of illness and injury.”

On the other hand, some experts suggest that moderate intense workouts work best to improve heart health. This is because moderate exercises are easier to maintain and can result in fewer complications late on. Additionally, slow-paced exercises may not provide the heart with as many benefits as once previously believed.

The BHF spokesperson continued on about the benefits of HIIT saying, “HIIT leads to an improvement in VO2max—the maximum oxygen you can provide to your muscles to create movement during exercise—which is a marker of cardiovascular fitness. Another benefit is it creates new cells called mitochondria in the body which take the fat and carbohydrates you either eat or store and convert them to usable energy. For most individuals, it is safe to participate in high-intensity training, and if you have a heart condition, you should always discuss any kind of new exercise you wish to take part in with your doctor.”

If you begin to experience shortness of breath, chest pains, dizziness, discomfort in the neck, back, arms, or nausea, you should stop whatever exercise you are doing right away and call out for assistance.

Even if you have a heart condition, this should not deter you completely from exercise. Working alongside your doctor can help you find types of exercises that are safest for you to perform to improve your heart health. Always remember to exercise at a pace that works best for you that does not lead to discomfort.

Related: Heart attack survival improved with exercise


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