Lifting weights does NOT give you a heart attack, insists Dr Aashish Contractor.
But if you have heart disease, you should seek the advice of a medical expert before joining or resuming any form of physical training.
Please note that the image has been released for representation purposes only. Photo: Courtesy of Samantha Ruth Prabhu/Instagram
There have been several incidents lately involving youngsters, including actors and celebrities, who have reported cardiac arrest and succumbed to life while working out at the gym.
This, of course, has led to a debate over whether high-intensity workouts are the reason for the sudden increase in cardiac deaths.
You have to understand that lifting weights does NOT give you a heart attack.
Of course, common sense must be applied, and we are talking about bodybuilding done in a scientific and healthy way, without the abuse of supplements.
Let’s start by understanding the common myths associated with strength training that need to be dispelled:
Myth 1: Strength training leads to cardiac arrest
Until a few years ago, only aerobic exercises, such as walking, running, cycling, swimming, etc. were considered beneficial.
Training with weights (also known as resistance training) was rarely recommended. And patients with heart problems were strictly advised to stay away from weights.
Today the situation is different. Thanks to our sedentary lifestyle, bodybuilding has become important for everyone.
But if you have had a cardiac arrest, you should seek the advice of a medical expert before enrolling or resuming any form of physical training.
For example, strength training should not be started until at least 4-6 weeks after the cardiac event. Also, it is very important that cardiac patients start at a very low level using light weights (less than two kg) and then gradually progress to higher weights.
There are a few positive benefits of strength training for heart patients, including:
- Increase in HDL (good) cholesterol
- Slight decrease in LDL (bad cholesterol)
- Improved blood sugar control (especially for diabetics)
- Improved feeling of well-being
Myth 2: Lack of exercise turns muscle into fat
Truth: Muscle does not turn into fat. Inactivity can cause your muscles to shrink and put on more fat, but muscle doesn’t turn into fat.
Muscle and fat are different types of tissue.
Fat could replace muscle so your arm or waist would be the same size, but your body composition would be different.
You would have more body fat and less muscle. In fact, if you start to become inactive, you may notice a change in appearance before a change in weight.
Strength training can help you achieve and maintain your healthy weight. Strength Training Burns Calories and Can Help You Lose Fat
Myth 3: I’m too old. It’s too late to get stronger
Truth: It’s never too late to start a weight training program.
Even people in their 80s and 90s can participate in a muscle building program and reap benefits.
Studies have been conducted with people in nursing homes who were confined to wheelchairs or had other functional limitations.
After just eight weeks of weight training programs, they showed optimistic improvements in muscle strength.
Many were able to walk and perform daily living tasks that improved their independence and quality of life.
Safety tips for muscle strengthening exercises
Whether you have heart disease or not, following a few basic rules while working out will help keep you safe.
- If you have any medical conditions, consult your doctor before beginning a strength training program.
- Learn how to do the exercises correctly, using good form and posture. It is more important to do the exercise correctly than to add weight or resistance. You will make more progress and reduce your risk of injury.
- Breathe correctly. Don’t hold your breath or growl. Holding your breath and straining yourself during strength exercises can produce unnecessary changes in your blood pressure. Exhale as the force is applied.
- Those who have recently had bypass surgery should be careful about exercises that cause tension or stretching of the chest muscles.
Dr. Ashish Contractor completed his MBBS from TN Medical College, Mumbai and post graduate training from the University of Virginia, USA. He has 17 years of experience in Cardiac Rehabilitation and is currently Head of Department (Rehabilitation and Sports Medicine) at Sir HN Reliance Foundation Hospital, Mumbai.
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