Doctors advise cardiac evaluation before starting exercises at the gym

The mushrooming of fitness clubs in Bangalore has raised questions about the correct way to exercise in the gym.

In September last, Amar Navaneetham, a 43-year-old dentist, collapsed on the treadmill. Last week, Brinda Mammen (39), met with a similar fate while working out. Doctors say both these cases are rare ones caused by sudden cardiac arrests. They assert that it is important to get a cardiac evaluation done before one starts using the gym.

Family history

“This is all the more necessary if the person is aged above 35 and has a family history of heart problems. Although the person may be leading a healthy lifestyle, some underlying problems in the heart such as valvular heart disease or hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (thickening of heart muscle, usually a hereditary condition) go undetected sometimes,” says C.N. Manjunath, Director of the State-run Sri Jayadeva Institute of Cardiology.

Excess physical activity causes mismatch between the demand and supply of oxygen to the heart muscles in persons with blockages in the arteries, Dr. Manjunath explains.

“Cardiac arrests are caused by blocks in arteries. While chronic blockages have symptoms, attacks caused because of some underlying blockages come without warning.”

He advises people against starting with high-intensity exercises. “One should gradually increase the activity. Isometric exercises that are done to strengthen abs, legs and shoulders are bad for the heart if proper care is not taken. They can thicken the heart muscles and excessive thickening can lead to sudden cardiac death.”

Don't stop exercising

Rajpal Singh R.L., consultant interventional cardiologist at Fortis Hospital's Bannerghatta Road branch, says such incidents should not discourage people from exercising. “People with a family history of heart problems should get a medical review done before taking up strenuous exercises,” he says.

“A regular exercise programme provides many benefits, and it is normal to feel a little tired following the workout. But, if you overdo it without allowing your body to recover, your body can break down,” he says.

Dr. Manjunath adds, “Always stop exercising if you feel pain as it often indicates that something is wrong. Exercise should make you feel refreshed and not exhausted.”

“It is better to run on medium speed on the treadmill for a longer duration than work out at a higher speed. Workouts soon after having heavy meals should be avoided and adequate fluids should be consumed to check dehydration,” the doctor advises.

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