Whether you are physically fit and work out often or not; it isn’t much of a stretch to see the appeal of exercise when you are feeling angry, upset or stressed.
However, as appealing as it might be, a recent study has linked heavy exertion while mad or stressed to tripling the risk of having a heart attack within in an hour.
This may come as a shock to many; especially as we have been taught that regular exercise is a healthy way of dealing with stress and can help prevent heart disease. But the problem lies with the word ‘regular,’ because of the fact that too many people are getting too little of it on a regular basis. And to perhaps further compound this problem, this study suggests that there may, in fact, be better and worse times to exercise.
“This study is further evidence of the connection between mind and body. When you’re angry, that’s not the time to go out and chop a stack of wood,” said Barry Jacobs, a psychologist at the Crozer-Keystone Health System in suburban Philadelphia and an American Heart Association volunteer.
This isn’t the first time that researchers have looked at the connection between exertion and anger as a trigger for heart attacks, but up until this point, most of the studies were askew. The studies were either too small, focus on a single country, or lack the diversification of women and minorities. This new study; however, involved 12,461 people suffering a first heart attack in 52 countries. Their average age was 58 and three-fourths were men.
The survey consisted of asking these men and women whether they felt angry or upset within the hour leading up to their heart attack or if they were experiencing heavy exertion. This was intended to give researchers an insight into the risks associated with different times, feelings, as well as the mental and physical state of the participant. The results were shocking.
According to the study, participants who were angry or upset were at double the risk of suffering heart attack symptoms within an hour; with heavy exertion doing the same. And if you were experiencing both? Well, then your risk tripled.
It is also worth noting that the risk was greatest between 6 p.m. and midnight, and was independent of other factors such as smoking, high blood pressure or obesity.
So, does this mean you should avoid working out when you are stressed?
That really depends. Firstly, you should certainly take into account your level of physical health to begin with. If you work out on the regular, then your body is more apt to handle the physiological impact. However, if you do not workout regular, the shock can do more harm than exercise can do good.
“We all need to find ways of modifying our emotional reactions and to avoid extreme anger,” such as distracting ourselves, walking away from the stressful situation, trying to see it from a different perspective, talking it out and getting support from other people,” says Jacobs.
So before you hit the gym, go for a run, or spend some time punching the heavy bag when you are angry, you might want to consider going for a calm, relaxing walk first – it might just save your life.