Rules of Sport for the Heart

Physical exercise proves helpful in strengthening the heart and improving its performance and endurance. Apart from that, hypodynamy, or a lack of physical activity, is a risk factor for cardiovascular diseases. Still, the fact that professional athletes often have to see cardiologists is well known. So how exactly does sport affect the heart and what are the reasonable limits of exercising?

The heart pumps blood that provides organs and tissues with the oxygen they need. If the myocardium’s performance is insufficient, the body may experience hypoxia, a state both dangerous due to its symptoms (shortness of breath, weakness etc.) and threatening for life and health on the whole. Patients suffering from heart failure find it difficult to do the most common and simple things like walking up the stairs. In fact, such light physical activities may in their case lead to a sudden drop in blood pressure and sometimes be fatal.

Sports help to avoid such dangerous conditions. During every physical activity the need for oxygen in the muscles increases, which means that the heart starts beating faster trying to pump larger volumes of blood. This way, the myocardium gets trained to adjust to possible loads and return to its normal state faster afterwards. Fit people bear any load easily, as their hearts are capable of switching to any rhythm almost effortlessly .

What’s more, intensified performance of the heart activates metabolic processes, which enables quicker restoration and regeneration of the myocardium, blood vessels and blood. As a side benefit, the amount of “bad” cholesterol causing atherosclerosis, the main root of coronary heart disease, decreases.

What is heart rate and why is it important?

Why does sport affect the performance of the heart so differently? Why in some cases sport extends its endurance while in others it causes problems? The main reason behind such varying effect is the selected training intensity. The best way to calculate proper intensity is to link it to heart rate increase, since the speed of blood flow depends on this figure.

To calculate suitable limits, you can use the following formula: subtract your age from 220. The result will be your maximum heart rate.

Below are the types of training divided by intensity:

  • Warm-up; the workload for people with cardiovascular diseases should be 50–60% of their maximum heart rate.
  • Cardio training, aerobic load; acceptable training for fit people aiming to keep their heart in shape – 60–70% of maximum heart rate.
  • Power training, anaerobic load; training that may damage the myocardium – 75–90% of maximum heart rate.
  • Heavy load, risk of fatal outcome – 90–100% of maximum heart rate.

However, it is essential to keep in mind that such calculations are strictly individual and depend on a variety of factors. For instance, a trained athlete whose heart is accustomed to heavy loads can easily stand maximum heart rate. At the same time, for a hypertensive person even training within a “safe” zone of heart rate may lead to serious health problems.

Rules of heart fitness

If you have any of the following heart performance risk factors, choose lighter intensity.

Excess weight. Excess body weight loads the heart, forcing it to provide a larger volume of tissues with blood. If an untrained myocardium is exposed to such a load, high-intensity training may prove harmful for the heart.

Cardiovascular diseases. The danger is that many of these never show any symptoms in their initial stages, which makes a person unaware of their existence. This is why before going in for sports, you should get your heart checked.

Smoking, alcohol, fatty foods, overeating. All these factors affect the heart, so getting rid of bad habits would be the best way to improve your health.

Stress. Emotional tension increases your heart rate in the same way as physical loads do. That’s why it is recommended to start your way into physical activity from relaxing exercise, only going in for higher-intensity training when your heart rate has come back to normal.

It’s important to remember that while an increased load on untrained muscles normally leads to soreness, the heart may react with a number of performance issues, like irregular heart rhythm, blood pressure increase, etc.

The main rule of exercising is:

What matters for heart health is not how intensive the training is, but how regular it is! If your exercising intensity pushes your heart to more than 60% of its maximum heart rate - exercise 3-4 times a week. If the intensity is lighter, it is recommended to exercise daily.

What we can do to help you

Doesn’t it sound great to always know how your heart is doing? If it does, all you need to do is to put on your favorite or newly-purchased fitness tracker and sign in to our app.

Once you are registered in the system and your individual physical data are taken for further calculation of rates that will represent YOUR PERSONAL NORM, the application will continuously monitor further dynamics of changes. In our next release, we will send you notifications informing you of any deviations from your ideal heart rate!

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