This is something I've been wondering for quite a while now. Is the very concept of exercising to keep your HEART healthy counterintuitive? While exercise may have other benefits, I wanted to focus only on the claim that exercise is GOOD for your heart, as it seems to be the primary reason that most people try to stay fit.
Well, here's the problem I have with this ... while exercise may make your heart stronger as a muscle, the very act of exercising forces it to work harder (pump harder and faster), which is actually STRAINING your heart, is it not?
Can anyone honestly say that the athlete that spends several hours every single day training and pushing their heart to the limit ... is healthier than the lazy slob who lies on the couch all day? The lazy slob may not be exercising their heart, but they also aren't putting a huge strain on it day in and day out in order to "stay fit."
This right here is the irony behind exercise. In order to make your heart stronger, you have to strain it and make it work harder first?
In addition, consider this ... if exercise is "healthy" for your heart, then that means becoming emotionally stressed (enraged, frightened, anxious, etc.) is also HEALTHY for your heart. Because both cause the heart to beat harder and faster. And although there may be other differences between the two, they are IRRELEVANT. Because the EFFECTS on the heart are the same. A faster-beating heart is a faster-beating heart. It doesn't matter if it's due to exercise or due to psychological stress. The heart can't tell the difference. Physically, it's simply pumping harder/faster in either situation. So for the point I am making, they are the same.
Also, it is common knowledge that although exercise may give you a lower blood pressure in the long run, your blood pressure spikes and is very high DURING the act of exercising. This is probably one of the reasons why heart attacks often trigger when ... you guessed it ... during EXERCISE! Especially amongst the elderly. (another reason would the blatant fact that the heart beats harder/faster as it is FORCED to pump more blood/oxygen to the muscles of the body) So your telling me that an activity that blatantly raises your BP (perhaps even to dangerous levels in strenuous activity) should be done everday for HEALTH? Seems pretty ridiculous to me ...
Think about professonal athletes, especially professional wrestlers or UFC fighters. These guys are fighting in the arenas every single day. Their hearts are being strained not only by the physical stress of the fights, but also by the anxiety/mental stress caused by the same thing! In addition, when they're NOT fighting in the ring, they're working out in the gyms and pumping iron on a daily basis (same deal with bodybuilders) ... God knows what kind of strain THAT puts on their hearts. Your telling me those guys are HEALTHY because of this?
On that same note, what about DREAMS? When you dream (primarily during REM sleep from my understanding), your body reacts to what happens as if it were happening in real life. That is why when you dream you are in a fight with someone or you are running for your life ... when you wake up, you're probably gonna be soaked in sweat with a pounding heart, just as if those things were happening for real.
So does that mean if I DREAM I am physically active or exercising ... then my heart is actually getting a workout? Why not? It's the same thing. The only difference is that your skeletal muscles (arms, legs, etc.) may not ACTUALLY be getting a workout, but that once again is IRRELEVANT ... because whether or not other parts of your body are actually getting a workout makes no difference to the effects on your heart. If you DREAM you are exercising, your heart will pump harder/faster as if you were doing it in real life.
Now, you may not be able to control what you do in a dream (try as you might), but you sure as hell can control what you do in real life. To this day, I still have not found one argument that can accurately and completely refute everything I've just said.
Sometimes I wonder if the idea that exercise is "beneficial" for your heart is simply a farse of a concept concocted by western society in order to justify using exercise as a means of losing weight (as opposed to eating less calories, which is what you SHOULD be doing). And that exercising STRAINS the heart more than anything else.
Here's hoping that someone can argue EFFECTIVELY against what I've said and prove me wrong.
Last edited by PrinceKrillo; 05-04-2011 at 10:40 PM.
I would argue that exercise is good if done properly. The difference between mental stress/anxiety and physical exercise is in the hormones that get released into your bloodstream.
The hormones cortisol and norepinephrine are very damaging to the body. They get released at times of high stress. If you exercise properly, these hormones will not be released. If you push yourself too hard, they will be released.
Getting your blood pressure up should not be a problem unless you have a medical condition. Your cardiovascular system is designed for both a resting state and an active state. Use it or lose it! :-) Again, this assumes that the exercise will not be unduly stressful so as to release damaging hormones. Your blood pressure goes up during sex and this is considered good for one's health and well being.
Your heart is a muscle. Like all muscles, it gets stronger with moderate regular exercise. But, just like you could strain a muscle by lifting something too heavy, excessive stress and demands are no good for the heart.
Recent research shows that normal short term stress (Oh, no I have to give a speech!) is usually ok. It's when you're stressed all the time and see no way out of your problems, that's when it wears down the immune system and the organs.
Bottom line: The heart is made to be used, so use it. Just don't horribly abuse it.
... This right here is the irony behind exercise. In order to make your heart stronger, you have to strain it and make it work harder first? ...
I've had Heart Failure for over 25 years, complete with damage to all four heart valves, Enlarged Heart Chambers, Thickened walls, etc.
I have found out that, through significant demanding exercise; and a very VERY healthy diet; and avoiding irritants that are bad for one's health; and through taking the most effective medication, my health and my heart have greatly improved.
That said...... when my heart was much worse, the slightest physical exercise would strain my heart, making me weak for a day or two, and making it difficult for me to breathe during that same time.
As my heart grew stronger, I could exercise more. Currently I can do pushups, weight lifts, weight curls, steppers, stationary bike, and one hour power walk per day, without straining my heart, as long as I don't overdo it.
I am close to 70 years of age, and by doing daily demanding exercise, my muscles are toned to the point where I can be physically fit and have a good quality of life. I still have to be careful NOT to strain my weakened heart, but I have learned how to do that.
Just wanted to give you some anecdotal evidence from an extreme case.
I love your analysis, it's very interesting yet confusing at the same time but it makes a lot of sense. My take on it is that excersizing is healthy for both the heart and the muscles when done in moderation. Someone like a UFC fighter merely abuses their heart while their heart doesn't have much time to catch up or "catch it's breath". But, just like with the muscles, the muscles need time to build back up after a heavy excersize or "apply what they've learned". The advantage that the moderate excersizer has over the lazy couch potato is that his heart has the ability to put up with more strain over time. Now, I don't think it would be healthy for either of them to work out non-stop, but, if the heart/muscles are given time to strengthen after a hard workout, they will become stronger. Think of the scientist or the mathematician, they wouldn't know what they know now if they excused or dismissed the hardest of problems. They strain their mind and when this is done constantly, it leads to confusion, being overwhelmed, headaches and mental fatigue. But once given time to take in information, they can remember things and become better just like the excersizer becomes healthier and stronger. Now, obviously, I'm not an expert with any of this because it isn't written that clearly, but what I'm trying to say is that overdoing something or plainly not doing something, is unhealthy either way. But in moderation, excersize can be and is healthy for the mind, muscles, and heart.
"Can anyone honestly say that the athlete that spends several hours every single day training and pushing their heart to the limit ... is healthier than the lazy slob who lies on the couch all day?"
A resounding YES!
Well, he or she may appear healthier and should be healthier than our lazy slob but do they live longer? Those who push their heart to the limit on a very regular basis appear to be vulnerable. If you take runners virtually all of them who die suddenly during exercise die of serious heart disease. It was always thought that they must have had an underlying and undiagnosed complaint but that seemingly is not always the case. Those who train too seriously build up calcium deposits in the arterial walls to a greater extent than the lazy or more moderate exercisers. When the blood pressure is raised there is a danger that the calcium plaques break off and the damage is done. Intense exercise can induce arrhythmia, either making your heart go faster or slower.
Scar tissue in and around the heart is found in endurance athletes, 50% suffer from this while young athletes and moderate and non athletes show none at all. My own claim to fame as a runner was to run a mile in under 5 minutes in my youth, I was almost lapped but still ran a faster mile than any woman had ever done!! At that time it was considered very dangerous for women to run that far.
The latest in exercise training is HIIT, "High Intensity Interval Training". a performance strategy with short intense sessions. Runners run flat out 10 to 20 seconds then jog for about ten seconds and do this at intervals for about 15 minutes. Many athletes have found that it improves them for runs of many distances. There are several methods each with varying intensity and less stressful slow periods. Presumably you could do it wth weight training as well. I would amagine that lesser fit athletes would show the greatest gains.
The argument as to whether it's healthy or unhealthy to over excersize seems unclear. However, moderate excersize is good for the muscles and heart and the moderate excersizer would seem, to me at least, better off than the one who just sits around.
What we do know is that rest homes and nursing homes are full of elderly and not so elderly folks whose only fault is that they are physically weak. Something like one in four Americans seniors cannot transfer fom sitting to standing without using their arms to help. You can see them in malls and buses struggling to just stand up. Another great reason to stay strong and healthy.
I used to have severe shoulder pain/rotator-cuff problems. I could not reach across my body, or reach back, or raise my arms, without severe and lasting pain. I needed to find a way to tone and build-up the muscles in my shoulders in the hopes that toned shoulder muscles would stop the pain and stop limiting my movements. I finally found a way to physically exercise my shoulders without pain. Over time, I gradually increased the reps and slowly added other shoulder exercises. Currently, at close to 70 years of age, I have absolutely no pain in my shoulders and have total flexibility and strength in my arms and shoulders.
My wife had cartilage damage to her knees and was quite limited. She had microsurgery to scrape and smooth out the frayed cartilage of her knees, but the surgeon held out little hope of a total success, because of her age. A program of doing two 30 minute power walks per day has restored significant mobility without any pain, but it took a few years of daily power walks to build up the muscles in her knees so that her knees would be supported against the existing cartilage damage. She still is limited, somewhat, in what she can do, but she has absolutely no discomfort in her knees.
Exercises to tone one's muscles not only burns calories and is healthy for our metabolism, but also provides support for our joints and nerves, and is especially important as we age to protect against the pains and aches caused by flabby, non-supportive muscles.
So...... put down the beer (at least for a minute or two) and pick up the weights, or get on a stepper, or go out for a power walk, or do pushups, etc.
What we do know is that rest homes and nursing homes are full of elderly and not so elderly folks whose only fault is that they are physically weak. Something like one in four Americans seniors cannot transfer fom sitting to standing without using their arms to help.
What a shame it is that all those people never learned the importance of keeping themselves strong. At my old address, where I lived 6 years ago, I had several neighbors who couldn't get up if they fell down. Two things happened with age: 1) they gained weight and 2) their muscles atrophied. So, when they fell down, they were trying to lift a lot of weight (in one case 295 lbs.) with very little muscle. One woman used to call the rescue squad every time her husband fell down and he would fall down several times per week.
I read that 50% of people in nursing homes are there because they are unstable on their feet.
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