Looking for another excuse to spend time sacked out on the sofa? Don’t think the recent “Exercise may hurt your heart!” headlines give you one.
First, the news: When researchers looked at results from six exercise studies, they discovered that a small percentage (8 to 13 percent) of the nearly 1,700 participants experienced an increase in one or more heart disease risk factors – they had higher blood pressure, higher insulin levels, lower HDL (the “good” cholesterol) and/or higher triglycerides. It didn’t seem to matter whether the participants did a lot or a little exercise, how fit or healthy they were to begin with or even how old they were.
The researchers don’t know why exercise caused negative changes in some people, or whether those changes will translate into more illness.
It’s true that exercise can temporarily raise blood pressure and even blood fats while you’re exercising, but in most people these effects are short-lived. “Exercise stresses your body,” says Mike Clark, Sharecare’s Chief Science Officer and a doctor of physical therapy. This kind of stress is actually good for you because it makes your muscles, including your heart, stronger, says Clark.
So what effect should these latest findings should have on the average exerciser? “No effect at all,” says Samin Sharma, MD, director of the Interventional Cardiology program at Mt. Sinai Medical Center. “None.”
“Exercise has traditionally been shown to improve cardiovascular fitness,” says Dr. Sharma. For the vast majority of people, exercise improves heart health by reducing blood pressure, lowering blood sugar, raising HDL and lowering triglycerides over the long term.
It’s worth noting that for some people in the studies, exercise had a greater-than-usual positive effect on measures of heart risk. And of course, exercise has countless other benefits, helping you lose weight, get happier, feel less frazzled, sleep better, remember more, and just plain make it through your day more easily.
I for one won’t be giving up my favorite habit anytime soon.
Have you used exercise to lower your blood pressure or improve your cholesterol? Tell us about it in the comment section below.
File under: In the News