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When ticker takes a toll

From building up muscles to improving bone health, from boosting mood to preventing chronic illnesses, the advantages of consistent physical activity are extensively researched and highly praised

Anwar Wahhab | Published 24.03.24, 11:56 AM
It’s important to remember the importance of moderation when it comes to physical activities

It’s important to remember the importance of moderation when it comes to physical activities

Pictures: istock

On the path to overall wellness, few pursuits offer as much hope and possibility as physical activity. From building up muscles to improving bone health, from boosting mood to preventing chronic illnesses, the advantages of consistent physical activity are extensively researched and highly praised. Nevertheless, new discoveries have shed light on a less familiar aspect of physical activity: its significant influence on cardiovascular health, with both positive and negative effects.

Exploring the dynamic heart


The heart’s remarkable adaptability is at the core of this revelation. Similar to how musicians hone their skills through practice, the heart goes through a refining process in response to the demands of exercise. This process, referred to as cardiac remodelling, presents itself in different forms based on the type of physical activity performed.

Engaging in dynamic exercises involves rhythmic movements and sustained efforts, which can significantly increase heart activity. Engaging in activities such as running, cycling, or swimming can raise the heart rate and require more blood flow to support the muscles in action. Over time, consistent stimulation encourages the heart to expand its chambers, improving its ability to efficiently circulate blood.

On the other hand, static exercises, such as resistance training and weightlifting, present the heart with a distinct set of challenges. Although these activities may not increase the heart rate as much as dynamic exercises, they still put significant pressure on the heart, which leads to adaptations such as thickened heart walls to handle the strain.

Managing the dangers of overexertion

Exercise is undoubtedly beneficial, but it’s important to remember the importance of moderation when it comes to physical activities. Engaging in exercise for extended periods or pushing yourself too hard can lead to a condition called the athletic heart.

Endurance athletes, who consistently challenge their bodies in activities like marathons or triathlons, are especially prone to experiencing the effects of the athletic heart. This phenomenon, marked by structural and functional alterations in the heart, is not inherently pathological. However, in some people, it may increase the likelihood of developing cardiac abnormalities like atrial fibrillation or coronary artery calcification.

Irregular heart rhythms, known as atrial fibrillation, can be a major concern for athletes who have significantly enlarged hearts. Extended endurance training can lead to inflammation and enlargement of the atria, which can raise the likelihood of arrhythmias and cardiovascular complications.

In medical circles, the presence of coronary artery calcification (CAC) among elite athletes has caused concern. Although commonly linked to older individuals or those with known risk factors for heart disease, the presence of CAC in athletes highlights the intricate nature of cardiovascular adaptations caused by exercise.

Science of exercise prescription

Given these factors, it is crucial to find a careful equilibrium between the advantages and potential drawbacks of physical activity. The guidelines set by the American Heart Association provide a valuable reference for individuals looking to improve their heart health through physical activity. They recommend 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity exercise per week.

However, it’s important to keep in mind that everyone’s body is different and will respond to exercise in their unique way. Every person’s exercise needs vary, so what may be suitable for one person might not be enough or might be too much for someone else. When creating personalised exercise prescriptions, it’s important to take into account factors like age, baseline fitness level, and pre-existing medical conditions.

Nurturing heart health

Embracing a well-rounded approach to maintaining heart health goes far beyond just following exercise routines. It involves taking care of your overall well-being in every aspect of your daily life. Proper nutrition, sufficient sleep, effective stress management, and strong social connections are all essential for maintaining a healthy and resilient cardiovascular system.

Eating a balanced diet that includes plenty of fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains is important for maintaining a healthy heart. Getting enough sleep is crucial for the body to rest, repair, and regenerate, which are all important for maintaining cardiovascular health.

Further, incorporating stress management techniques like mindfulness meditation, deep breathing exercises, or participating in leisure activities can help reduce the negative impact of chronic stress on the heart. Nurturing deep social bonds and cultivating a sense of belonging can greatly enhance emotional well-being, ultimately benefiting heart health by harnessing the strength of human connection.

Embracing a journey

Ultimately, the quest for a healthy heart goes beyond just working out, encompassing a comprehensive path towards overall well-being. Through a deep understanding of the relationship between physical activity and cardiovascular well-being, people can effectively manage the intricacies of maintaining a healthy heart.

Finding the right balance of exercise intensity, duration, and frequency, customised to personal needs and preferences, allows individuals to enjoy the many advantages of physical activity while minimising any potential risks. By actively participating in physical activity and adopting a comprehensive approach to overall wellness, including proper nutrition, quality sleep, effective stress management, and nurturing social relationships, people can begin a lifelong quest for a healthy heart and vibrant life.

Anwar Wahhab is a Mental Performance Mastery Coach and a Bioprint practitioner.
You can reach him at

Last updated on 24.03.24, 12:03 PM

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