Which Sports Are Heart Safe?
A new study published in the New England Journal of Medicine recently came out that states that contrary to popular belief, marathons aren’t deadly. What the researchers found is that most people who have a cardiac event while running a marathon had an undiagnosed heart problem.
To me, that doesn’t mean running a marathon is “safe” per say. Instead, I feel that it’s a good reminder that anyone who is going to run a marathon needs to get a stress test before taking on the challenge.
What they also need to tell people is that marathon running causes a tremendous amount of oxidative stress on the body—including the heart. So, if you’re going to run marathon you need to take plenty of antioxidants.
Yet, despite how much bad press marathons get the single most dangerous cardiac sport hardly ever gets mentioned—racquetball. With racquetball, you’re either going 100 miles an hour moving to get the ball, or you’re completely stopped. Plus, you’re playing in very tight quarters so you have little space to slow down.
The start-stop action of racquetball can disrupt your cardiac rhythms or may predispose you to plaque rupture. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if more people have a cardiac event that’s not caused by a pre-existing condition on a racquetball court than they do running a marathon.
So, which sports are “heart safe?” I recommend walking, swimming, doubles tennis, dancing, and golf. In fact, any sport that allows you to moderate your activity and exercise steadily at your own pace is a good choice. But, if you have a cardiovascular condition, or you’re a man over age 40 or a woman over age 45, I recommend seeing your doctor before you begin exercising.
Now it’s your turn: What’s your favorite type of exercise?
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Dr. Stephen Sinatra is a highly respected and sought-after cardiologist and nutritionist with more than 30 years of clinical practice, research, and study. His integrative approach to heart health focuses on reducing inflammation in the body and maximizing the heart's ability to produce and use energy. More About Dr. Sinatra
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