Bursts of Unexpected Exercise May Be Dangerous

Are you a weekend warrior? You know, during the work week you’re just too busy to get the exercise you need. So instead you make up for it on the weekends with 4 or 5 hours of vigorous activity! Or perhaps you rarely do any physical activity, except shoveling heavy snow a few times each winter.

Couch potatoes, beware! Irregular episodes of physical activity and sexual activity may carry an increased risk of heart attack or sudden death. While relatively small, there is a risk none the less, especially for those unaccustomed to regular physical activity.

In a systematic review of the literature, researchers analyzed data from studies investigating the cardiac risks of irregular physical activity, sexual activity, or both. The relative risk of heart attack was 3.45 times higher in those who only engaged in episodic physical activity. In the same group, episodic sexual activity was associated with 2.7 times the risk of heart attack, and sudden cardiac death risk increased 4.98 times.

The good news from this study is that the trigger effect of episodic exercise was significantly lower for people who were regularly active. Habitual exercisers were 5 times less likely to have a heart attack triggered by unusual physical activity.

What is the message from all this? The more regular our physical activity, the lower our risk is of triggering a heart attack from unexpected exercise. Regularity in exercise, and in all habits of life, has distinct benefits.

Our world depends on regular systems like the rising and setting of the sun. If our breathing or heart rhythm is irregular we get concerned. It isn’t surprising that if we don’t habitually exercise, our risk of triggering a serious heart event is several times higher when we do engage in sudden episodes of physical activity.

While this study did not look at other lifestyle areas, the principle of regularity applies as well. Regularity in eating, sleeping, physical activity, and even waking in the morning can all improve health, attitude and our ability to cope with life’s stresses.

So many things compete for our time — it really boils down to our priorities.