Some of Us Should Not Set Extreme Fitness Goals When It Comes To Heart Health

trail_runner.jpgThe typical New Year's Resolution List ranges from vowing to exercise and starting a garden to writing in your diary and cleaning the garage...

It goes on, but you get the idea: we tend to be hyper-idealistic when we are in our relaxed-winter-vacation-state of mind setting our goals for the next year. And why shouldn't we be? The human body, mind and spirit are an incredible gift with infinite potential to be explored. But, there also comes a point where we can flirt with fantasy and need to protect ourselves from disappointment. When it comes to setting fitness goals, Gretchen Reynolds of the New York Times offers a similar take on this idea.

A scientific review scheduled for publication next month looked at over 30 years of studies on exercise and heart health, with a particular focus on how prolonged endurance exercise can affect the heart. The results proved typical: exercise helps your heart.

However, it also provides new insight into a potential risk of strenuous exercise. If, for instance, you have atherosclerosis, strenuous exercise may put you at a great risk of a heart attack. Plaques may rupture, initiating a heart attack. Studies show that risk is greater when running than while sitting quietly. The study showed that there are a few other conditions in which strenuous exercise has the potential to cause more harm than good.

That being said, we can’t use this study to justify scratching “exercise” off of our lists. Dr. Paul Thompson, one of the researchers, provided advice with a fair and balanced interpretation:

The best response is “to know your family history of sudden death,” he said. If a close family member has died unexpectedly of heart problems, talk to your doctor about whether you need to be tested for conditions such as atherosclerosis or cardiomyopathy."

So, set goals for yourself this year. Set many, and dream big! Just be careful to not try and do too much, too fast, when it comes to your heart.

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