Exercise and heart rhythm

If you want your heart to flutter, there are probably other things you would do than elite endurance sports. Surprisingly, however…

Generally exercise is good for your heart, except in some cases of acute heart trouble. But things are not quite as simple as they sound, Scandinavian scientists have found out.

Studies of runners over 40 in the Norwegian “Birkebeiner” race and the Swedish “Vasalopp” race show that the top runners were far more likely to experience disturbances in their heart rhythm than the less “elite” participants. Both those who ran the fastest and those who ran most frequently had dramatically more cases of arrhythmia. In the Vasalopp, those who had participated at least 7 times had 29% more risk compared to those who had participated only once. And those who had run at less than 1.6 times the winning time had 37% more than those who ran at more than 2.4 times the winning time.

The most common disturbance is extra beats, which are considered harmless but tend to be disturbing. However, these people are also more at risk for oscillations, which can be life threatening. This risk is far lower, but even those who survive will usually have to step down from elite competition.

There is as of yet no official explanation for the findings, but the hypothesis that has been mentioned is a larger heart in top-trained individuals.

Source: Dagens Næringliv (in Norwegian), specifically “Vasalopp-toppene mest utsatt for hjertetrøbbel” and “Trener knallhardt – sliter med hjerterytmen“.

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Regular readers will guess why I noticed these articles: Both this year and in 2005, I developed heart rhythm disturbances after a few months of regular exercise. Not exactly a great incentive to continue exercising, although the doctors and available literature assure me it is not life threatening at the current level.

There is a big difference however between me and the elite runners: I don’t run at all, I just walk (although in some cases I walk up long hills, which is an equivalent load to running on flat terrain, but uses the muscles differently.) There is nothing elite about my physical exertions at all. There are two other similarities, though.

Most notably, I have a remarkably low heart rate. Usually my resting pulse is in the interval 55-60, which is on the low end of normal. But late this summer it fell to 50, which is only normal for those who are active in endurance sports: Runners, bikers, swimmers etc on at least local competition level.

In addition, I am not visibly fat. It is kind of weird to even have to mention this, but these days it is normal to be fat if you are not an athlete.

I am pretty sure it is the first of these that is the key here. I believe the extra beats arise as a result of the slow heart rate. In the pause between beats, the heart is probably in some way more susceptible to false clues to start another beat. For most people, that pause is simply too short to trigger extra beats often (without the help of caffeine or romance, at least). As the beat gets slower, the opportunity for false starts increases. That is how I imagine it. I don’t have any medical education whatsoever, but it seems logical and it fits the fact.

So basically I consider myself a control group. If it was just the exercise that caused the change, then it would not affect me, since I exercise much less. But if the exercise causes this by lowering the heart rate below a certain threshold, then it would work for both of us.

Of course, there are (as implied from the start) many other things that can cause the heart rhythm to get unstable. But those are not things that change with the amount of exercise. If anything, exercising more means less time to drink coffee, and surprisingly also less nervousness. Whether it also causes less romance, I won’t have an opinion on. ^_^

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Note that for most people these days, their pulse is on the high side rather than the low. This has its own problems. If your pulse is above 80, you should have a talk with your doctor about finding ways to exercise in a gradual way so as to build up your heart, and get the heart rate down. Obviously most people in the western world face very different health challenges from what I and the top athletes do! How did I end up in the wrong bin anyway?

 

11 thoughts on “Exercise and heart rhythm

    • Since when did feeding children become God’s job? He already created a planet that’s serving enough food for 10 billion people, when we are 7 billion. The reason why people are still staving is hate among humans. Unless you propose God brainwash us all, I don’t see how this is God’s responsibility.

    • Do you think God sends souls to Earth against their will? What makes you think so? I find that hard to believe, given how much freedom we have once here.

    • If you were a soul, would you choose to incarnate in Scandinavia, where you would likely live 80+ years in a constant onslaught of atheism and materialism, where greed, gluttony, fornication, hubris and blasphemy are openly applauded?
      Not saying I would rather starved to death as a child, but a more pious soul might well have chosen differently. Just saying.

      The process of becoming a person in time is quite a bit less familiar than picking a new place to live, obviously, but in any case the perspective from Heaven is rather different from that of the average human on Earth!

  1. “If you were a soul, would you choose to incarnate in Scandinavia, where you would likely live 80+ years in a constant onslaught of atheism and materialism, where greed, gluttony, fornication, hubris and blasphemy are openly applauded?”
    From my current perceptive, definitely.

    I’d rather deal with atheists than fundamentalists.

    “The process of becoming a person in time is quite a bit less familiar than picking a new place to live, obviously, but in any case the perspective from Heaven is rather different from that of the average human on Earth!”

    I realize that.

    I was hoping you’d have an idea on how it worked. What does a soul have to gain by starving in Somalia?

  2. “If you were a soul, would you choose to incarnate in Scandinavia, where you would likely live 80+ years in a constant onslaught of atheism and materialism, where greed, gluttony, fornication, hubris and blasphemy are openly applauded?”
    From my current perceptive, definitely.

    I’d rather deal with atheists than fundamentalists.

    “The process of becoming a person in time is quite a bit less familiar than picking a new place to live, obviously, but in any case the perspective from Heaven is rather different from that of the average human on Earth!”

    I realize that.

    I was hoping you’d have some idea on how it worked. What does a soul have to gain by starving in Somalia?

  3. That would depend on the soul, wouldn’t it?

    I haven’t starved in Somalia (or elsewhere), so I won’t be able to speak from experience. I have only lived with asthma since I was a toddler, back before it became common, and was unable to play with other children and was bullied regularly. I have written repeatedly about the benefits and blessings this has been to me later in my life. So clearly suffering (or more correctly pain) can sometimes be a good thing, but that does not mean that I wouldn’t eradicate asthma from the world if it was in my power.

    The thing is, you can eradicate this or that source of suffering, but you cannot eradicate suffering from the human condition. For thousands of years, starvation was normal – only the nobility was reasonable sure of never starving. It was not until around the time Heaven sent Adam Smith to teach responsible capitalism that mass starvation began to recede from the Earth, so that it can now only be experienced in a few scattered sites. Even if it disappears, other sources of suffering will prevail, because the world is not perfect and is not meant to be perfect.

    The weird thing is that you somehow think God is obliged to make the world into Heaven, whereas this task is specifically given to us humans. *If the world was a Heaven, we would not be fit to live there.* Our souls are adequate to suffering, unfortunately, and thus we create it constantly. Only when we become suitable citizens for Heaven can we live under heavenly conditions. As it is, the world as I know it today is rather better than I deserve. I may forget this, but I am frequently reminded of it again. I suspect when the Light grows stronger for you, you will feel the same way.

  4. Because the world is not perfect. It is not supposed to be perfect at the present time. If we want to improve the world – and we should – then we must begin by improving ourselves. The world will be adequate to those who live in it. The only way the Kingdom of Heaven can come on Earth, is through the hearts of men and women. And I’m afraid we have a long way to go.

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