Here’s the most important thing about exercise for your heart…
Endurance training, like cardiovascular endurance (“cardio” for short), is not the only thing your heart and lungs need. It won’t keep your heart and lungs from shrinking with age. And it won’t make your heart less prone to disease.
A 30-year study shows endurance exercise leads to a common heart problem.
Norwegian cross-country marathon skiers took part in a study that began in 1976. Researchers wanted to know if the elite athletes would develop heart disease.
They discovered endurance athletes are at unusually high risk for atrial fibrillation (AF), which leads to stroke.
AF is when the two upper chambers of the heart quiver instead of beating properly. Blood isn’t pumped completely out, so it pools and clots. If a clot breaks loose, it can travel to the brain and cause a stroke.1
In general, only 0.5% of the population has AF. But in the marathon skiers, it rose to 12.8%. What’s surprising, the youngest age group was most at risk. In the 26- to 33-year-old age group, 18.2% developed AF.2
You can have AF and not even know it. Some of the symptoms include:
Research is finally catching up with common sense. Short bursts of intense exercise are what nature intended. It’s better for your heart – and your health.
Your body is designed to adapt to the environment, just like when your ancestors were hunting or escaping from wild animals. Forcing yourself to exercise for long periods without rest is not what nature intended. When you do the same repetitive movement over and over like you’re a machine, you cause too much stress on your organs. Stress causes inflammation, and inflammation leads to chronic disease.
In this case, heart disease.
A Harvard study came to the same conclusion. Short bursts of intense exertion lowers the risk of heart disease – and death.3,4
There is an easy way to guard against AF and strengthen your heart. I designed PACE to take minutes – rather than hours – a day. Plus, it gives you a lean and toned body. You can start right now, wherever you are, even if you’ve never exercised a day in your life.
1. Choose a challenge. Choose an activity that challenges you. For one person it might be walking for one minute. For someone else, it might be sprinting full blast. Or use weights. Or a bicycle.
2. Warm up. Start your activity in a slow and controlled manner to get the blood flowing in your body. Become aware of how your body responds. Warm up for about two minutes.
3. Challenge your body. Once you’re warmed up and ready, turn up the intensity. Whatever form of exercise you choose, start at a level you’re comfortable with and put effort into what you do. Start with only a minute or two.
4. Rest and recover. Now relax. Notice your heartbeat. Keep track of how long it takes to get back to normal. Take as long as you need, but when you catch your breath, it’s time to challenge your body again.
5. Repeat. Repeat the challenge followed by rest four to six times. This shouldn’t take you more than 10-12 minutes.
To Your Good Health,
Al Sears, MD
1. Wolf PA, Dawber TR, Thomas HE, Kannel WB (1978). “Epidemiologic assessment of chronic atrial fibrillation and risk of stroke: the Framingham study.” Neurology 28 (10): 973-7.
2. Grimsmo et al. “High prevalence of atrial fibrillation in long-term endurance cross-country skiers: echocardiographic findings and possible predictors – a 28–30 years follow-up study.” European Journal of Cardiovascular Prevention and Rehabilitation, 2010; 17 (1): 1.
3. Lee IM, Sesso, HD, et al. “Relative intensity of physical activity and risk of coronary heart disease.” Circulation. 2003;107(8):1110-11166.
4. Lee IM, Hsieh CC, et al. “Exercise intensity and longevity in men: The Harvard Alumni Health Study.” JAMA. 1995;273(15):1179-1184.