Scientists have discovered that being too fit is dangerous. According to GP Dr Marlin Mckay, having six pack is not healthy in the same way that being an over-active gym bunny can get one killed.
GP Dr Marlin Mckay explains that over indulgence in exercise is not safe even as fatalities are reported at events for the super-fit such as the Comrades Marathon, Midmar Mile and Iron Man triathlon series every year.
Some people wanting to build stronger muscles overload on steroids to build muscle fast. McKay says it’s important to note that these steroids are anabolic steroids, which are synthetic versions of testosterone, a male hormone.
“These are dangerous because abuse can lead to throwing one’s testosterone out of balance. This can have catastrophic consequences.”
Evidence is growing that pushing the body beyond normal limits may damage the heart. Austrian researchers found that, of 16 cyclists competing in the “Race across the Alps” — a one-day event that covers 143 miles (230 km) — at least one quarter showed heart muscle injury immediately afterward.
The mechanism behind this injury is unknown. Increased adrenaline levels during prolonged exercise may lead to the narrowing of coronary arteries, resulting in the death of some heart cells. It’s also possible that the body produces a certain enzyme during strenuous exercise, which could even trigger mini-heart attacks.
There have been many cases of top athletes succumbing to problems usually linked to unhealthy lifestyles. The legendary explorer Sir Ranulph Fiennes suffered a heart attack at 59, and in 1984 fitness guru Jim Fixx, credited with starting the jogging boom of the 1970s, collapsed and died of a heart attack aged 52 while on one of his regular runs.
Also, Gopolang Ngwenya from Roodepoort says a close friend and gym buddy died two weeks ago, after a serious gym session. She says he was a cancer patient in remission, but also loved working out. “He was in the gym every day. He died from a heart attack and he was only 28 years old,” she says.
McKay says it’s not a strange phenomenon. “Zero exercise is no good either. The standard guidelines are 150 minutes per week or 30 minutes a day for at least five days of the week,” he says. But be weary when you are not able to perform at the same pace, need longer periods of rest or are feeling tired.
Dr. Mckay explains that like anything else, exercise needs to be done in moderation.
The doctor advises that to avoid a heart attack during exercise, be aware of any chest discomfort, which is a common sign of heart attack. “Nausea, indigestion, heartburn or stomach pain, pain that radiates to the jaw and/or arm, feeling dizzy or lightheaded, shortness of breath or fatigue and sweating are signs that you should stop and get medical help,”.
If you are regularly taking strenuous exercise, you should always monitor yourself for warning signs. The symptoms we all know about include chest discomfort or squeezing, throat tightness, and pain that radiates into the jaw or left arm. In addition, a sudden, unexplained drop-off in performance which is not associated with overtraining could also indicate that something is amiss, as could the sudden onset of heart palpitations.
Another danger of pushing yourself too far is taking it to extremes and becoming addicted to exercise. In rare cases, it can become an obsession which risks both your physical and mental health. If the thought of not working out for a day or two is scary, it may be time to re-evaluate. This problem is becoming more widespread with the increasing emphasis on thinness all around us. Body dissatisfaction may predispose us to rely too heavily on working out, even if we’re tired, ill, or injured.
To help yourself adjust to a healthier pattern, consider taking a break from the gym and begin a gentler form of exercise at home. Yoga, for example, will help you get back in touch with your body’s needs. To release the anxiety you may feel, consider meditating or building moments of relaxation into your day such as short walks or hot baths.
But if you find you’re unable to break the chains of obsessive exercise on your own, do seek help from an expert who can help you let go of it gradually, while uncovering the basis of your compulsion.
[Somaya Stockenstroom;Jane Collingwood]
Additional report by Ifedayo Oshin