UMEM Educational Pearls

Category: Orthopedics

Title: Exercise and the heart

Keywords: Sudden cardiac death, physical activity (PubMed Search)

Posted: 4/23/2016 by Brian Corwell, MD (Updated: 7/18/2024)
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Exercise and the heart

Exercise increases the risk of sudden cardiac death (SCD) acutely.

Exercise decreases the risk of SCD in the long term.

Regular physical activity (even as little as 15 mins/day) reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD). 

Up to 15% of MIs occur during or soon after vigorous physical exercise. This is typically in sedentary men with coronary risk factors.

In a 1993 study, in the first hour after heavy exertion, risk of heart attack rose more than 100-fold from baseline for habitually inactive persons. However, for frequent exercisers, this risk rose less than three-fold. Think of snow shoveling after a winter storm.

Both the Physicians’ Health Study and the Nurses’ Health Study show that the risk of SCD during exertion is reduced by habitual exercise.

If you are physically active, stay active. If you are not active, you should be because exercise has innumerable personal benefits. However, it is important to start gradually Some individuals at higher risk need to start under the guidance of a physician.


Eichner, E. Randy. Current Sports Medicine Reports: March/April 2016