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Unveiling the Reality of the Common Myths about Heart Health and Exercise


In this article, we will discuss a few common myths about exercise and the heart you have heard off late. Dr. John S. Edelen, Oakland Cardiologist M.D. of Alta Bates Summit Medical Center, has debunked some of these common myths. Let’s give it a look to get a clear understanding of the subject.

Exercise and heart health is one of the most controversial topics lately. People are in a dilemma where they cannot figure out whether exercising is good for the heart or vice versa.

Well, a consistent exercise plan improves our overall health, including our heart. However, knowing which exercise is best for your heart and how much to do it is important. In addition, it is also vital to be aware of your heart health so that you can plan your exercise routine accordingly.

Recently, a lot of myths around exercise and heart health have been increasing confusion. Some of these sayings might sound reasonable, but not all demand your attention. Therefore, in this article, we will discuss a few common myths about exercise and the heart you have heard off late. Dr. John S. Edelen, Oakland Cardiologist M.D. of Alta Bates Summit Medical Center, has debunked some of these common myths. Let’s give it a look to get a clear understanding of the subject.

Myth 1: Avoid exercise if you have had a heart attack

Fact: You should instead switch to supervised exercise programs

A heart attack is a severe health issue, and you are advised to take a lot of precautions post-treatment. However, ignoring exercise isn’t one of them. Yes, it is true that you should avoid body training for the initial few weeks after an attack, but this doesn’t mean that you will have to quit exercising altogether. Dr. Edelen says several studies reveal the benefits of following a supervised exercise plan post a heart attack, and this is how it is done in several cardiac rehab programs.

Supervised exercises have shown improved outcomes in many patients. Therefore, people who have survived heart attacks should talk to their doctors about fitness and get an exercise plan structured especially for them.

Myth 2: Do not exercise if you have suffered heart failure

Fact: Inactiveness is much more dangerous to your health

Exercise benefits everyone, be it a healthy individual or someone who has suffered heart failure. Patients who have suffered heart failure often complain about shortness of breath, and they think exercising is not for them. However, little do they know that being inactive is one of the major causes of increased pulse rate, shortness of breath, and weakness in the body.

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According to Dr. Edelen, patients who adopt a well-supervised exercising routine will see a gradual improvement in their overall health. He assures that exercise benefits everyone, especially aerobic exercise. Therefore, for every heart-related condition, you should focus on supervised exercises that will help strengthen your heart and cardiovascular system.

Myth 3: The more you exercise, the better it is for your heart health

Fact: The right amount of exercise planned according to your body is best

Have you heard people discussing that you must exercise a lot to keep your heart healthy? If yes, you need to get your facts checked. For a healthy heart, you don’t need to exercise aimlessly. Instead, planning an age-appropriate fitness routine is the key.

According to Dr. Edelen, two studies released in 2015 revealed that the most significant improvement in mortality is seen in people who walk daily. Ideally, the first 20 minutes of your exercise is enough to keep your heart healthy, and beyond that adds to your endurance and muscle building. Furthermore, 150 minutes of workout per week is ideal for fetching you some great fitness results.

Myth 4: Too much exercise can damage your heart

Fact: This is possible for endurance athletes (like marathon runners) who do intense training for years.

If you have ever had a chance to talk to a fitness enthusiast or a doctor about your exercise routine, you might be aware of the fact that there are levels of exercising. For example, you begin as a beginner, and the intensity of your workout is planned accordingly for a couple of months. Moving ahead, you reach the intermediate level, followed by the advanced training level. Therefore, an individual has to adopt a workout routine according to their level so that they do not put intense pressure on their body parts until they are prepared for it.

So, inactive people who suddenly jump into a vigorous exercise routine are more likely to suffer cardiac issues. You should begin slowly, work on your endurance and then level up to benefit your body.

Dr. Edelen emphasizes that you should not work out seven days a week because your muscles need proper time to rest and recover. Therefore, ask your trainer to give you a 3-day or 5-day workout plan suiting your body type, goals, and health conditions.

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Myth 5: Your maximum heart rate could be 220 minus your age

Fact: Varies from one individual to other

The myth that your maximum heart rate is 220 minus your age is not totally wrong, but it is conditional. On average, this is true, but it can vary from one individual to the other. For instance, Dr. Edelen says the maximum heart rate for an individual decrease by 10 for each decade of age.

He further clarifies that for exercises like aerobics, jogging, biking, etc., your target rate should be 70 to 85 percent of your maximum heart rate. This means you should be able to indulge in a conversation while exercising without panting.

Myth 6: If you are working out to lose fat, you should keep your heart rate in the ‘fat-burning zone’.

Fact: Exercising at a higher heart rate doesn’t help in burning fat

To lose weight, you must focus on creating a calorie-deficit situation for your body. A calorie deficit can only be achieved with the right combination of a low-calorie diet and a consistent exercise routine. Most people have a myth that if they exercise at a higher heart rate, they’ll be able to shed those extra pounds quickly. Unfortunately, this isn’t true.

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Dr. Edelen explains that if you exercise at a higher heart rate, you’ll probably quit sooner, which will not help you burn the required calories. Therefore, to burn calories consistently, you’ll have to follow the rule of going slow to exercise longer. Remember, you never really burn fat but burn calories, for which consistency is the key.

So, the idea is that if you exercise at a lower heart rate, you’ll be able to work on your body for longer. And longer sessions of workout will assist in burning more calories comparatively.

Myth 7: Heart rate monitors on workout machines show accurate results.

Fact: Exercise machines do not show accurate results unless they are calibrated for accuracy

Most of us rely on the heart rate displayed on exercise machines used in our homes or gym. As a result, we function accordingly and believe we are moving in the right direction. If you, too, believe in the results displayed on exercise equipment, you might be misleading yourself.

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So, if the exercise equipment are not calibrated daily to show accurate results, they aren’t believable. According to Dr. Edelen, when these workout pieces of equipment are new, they depict real results. However, they become less accurate when they get older, which sometimes becomes misleading.

Myth 8: People who don’t exercise are the ones who predominantly suffer from heart diseases

Fact: Being inactive is one of the many reasons that could lead to cardiovascular diseases

There are many factors that contribute to the risk of heart disease, and being sedentary is one of them. Besides being inactive, high blood pressure, smoking, high cholesterol, obesity, high-sugar diets, diabetes, sleep apnea, high fat, and genetics are other factors that may lead to the coronary artery and vascular disease.

Dr. Edelen emphasizes the effects of your lifestyle patterns on your heart health. Your lifestyle pattern significantly impacts your heart health, and exercise is one of them. Regular exercise is good for the heart, but the absence of a workout routine cannot be solely responsible for heart diseases. Therefore, you should focus on improving other factors, as explained above.

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You should exercise at least three days a week for a healthy heart. The best way is to get a supervised exercise plan designed by a doctor or certified trainer. In addition, indulging in a 30 minutes’ walk daily can add to the betterment of your heart health. The speed of your walk will gradually increase as your become consistent in this practice.

Besides, if you are a smoker, you should immediately quit smoking. Furthermore, focusing on your diet can also help you improve your overall health. So, plan a diet that has low cholesterol levels, and also focus on cutting your sugar intake. Make sure that you consume a well-balanced diet.

Another vital factor is your body weight, which should be controlled and aligned to fit into the ideal weight range according to your age. As you grow older, the chances of developing a heart disease multiply. Therefore, being mindful of your diet and exercise patterns is crucial as you grow older.

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