top of page

Can exercising in the gym trigger heart attacks Learn the truth behind celebrity deaths in the gym..

Over the years, there have been reports linking strenuous physical activity to sudden cardiac death. The recent demise of comedian Raju Srivastava, who collapsed on the treadmill, has led people to believe that physical exercise at the gym can lead to heart attacks. However, there is little evidence on the grounds of this claim.

Heart attacks are caused by a sudden blockage in the coronary arteries supplying blood to the heart muscle. A common misconception is that such a blockage can only result from deposits of fat (lipids, cholesterol) and cells on the artery wall — similar to blocks in household plumbing. While this is one potential reason, there are other reasons for a heart attack, as demonstrated by the numerous recent celebrity deaths in the gym.

Recent studies have shown that doing a lot of exercises and doing them with great intensity can lead to problems with the heart. These problems include:

  • Accelerated calcification of the heart arteries

  • Exercise-induced release of heart biomarkers

  • Increase in collagenous scar tissue in the heart

  • Irregular and often very rapid heart rhythm leads to blood clots in the heart

Furthermore, a study of marathon runners found that even after they finish their races, their blood had biomarkers often linked to heart damage. Often, these signs of wear go away on their own. However, if the heart keeps going through extreme physical stress, the temporary damage may lead to permanent changes in the heart, such as thicker heart walls. The thickening of the heart wall may lead to blockages, even if the person maintains a healthy diet, increasing the risk of a heart attack.

Thanks to social media and pop culture, more people are going to the gym than ever before. Gym Goers perform strenuous exercises that might not suit the needs and capacities of their body. Moreover, India's young adults are becoming increasingly prone to heart disease. Compared to the West, Indians contract heart diseases at least ten years before their counterparts in the West. One of the reasons behind India's poor heart health is that we have comparatively smaller blood vessels than the western population, among other lifestyle reasons.

Specifically, regular gym goers are at a higher risk of heart attack for diverse reasons:

  1. Strenuous exercises - Workouts involving high intensity, especially running or cycling at ten mph or higher, and forceful exercising lead to a heart attack.

  2. Increased blood pressure - When the blood pressure does not return to normal after exercising, it is a cause of worry. Diastolic blood pressure should not change while exercising.

  3. Undiagnosed blockages and malfunctioning - Most gym goers do not know they have clogged arteries until they suffer an attack.

Fortunately, there are various effective ways to combat the risk of a heart attack during exercising:

1. Exercise as per your body's capacity - Overestimating your body's ability can be detrimental. It is advisable to exercise according to the capability of the body. A few ways to check your endurance is by taking simple tests like the Stair test, Walk test, and RPE test.