It’s no news that being active is good for you. Regular exercise speeds up metabolism, staves off depression, improves heart and lungs activity, and it’s an essential part of an overall healthy lifestyle. However, scientists have discovered that intense, long-term training may make it more likely that you will need a pacemaker.
A study conducted on mice by the British Heart Foundation discovered a correlation between sustained physical activity and molecular modifications that influence heart rate. According to the researchers, this finding connects the low BPM of professional athletes to a higher risk of irregularities in heart rhythm.
Also known as arrhythmias, heart rhythm disturbances are more likely to occur with endurance athletes, who train intensely and for long periods of time. More research performed on humans is needed to draw a definitive conclusion, and the risks involved are still low, but results so far suggest that heart health may be affected by exercise, especially in older athletes.
Experts point out that long-term sustained exercise, such as marathon training, prompts the risk of arrhythmia by slowing down the heartbeat. An endurance athlete has a heartbeat of about 30 BPM, even less during sleep, whereas that of a regular person ranges between 60 and 100.
Scientists at the University of Manchester have determined that long-term exercise prompts a decrease in the HCN4 protein within the heart’s natural pacemaker, leading to the low BP found in athletes. This makes it more likely for athletes who have been training all their lives to require an artificial pacemaker when they get older.
However, researchers assure us that the risks are very small, even for elite endurance athletes, and the benefits brought about by regular exercise are still greater than the potential heart concerns.