(WAB NEWS) — First it was “Sex in the City” character Mr. Big who died in Carrie Bradshaw’s arms of a heart attack after a 45-minute ride on his Peloton exercise bike. Then there was Mike “Wags” Wagner, the drug-addled, sadistic right-hand man of Ax Capital’s Bobby Axelrod on the Showtime series “Billions,” who also suffers a heart attack after working out on his elite bike.
Wags, played by esteemed actor David Costabile, survives. “I’m not going to go out as Mr. Big,” he declares in typical cynical style in this season’s opening episode.
The negative publicity caused by the fictional incidents may have some wondering: Is intense exercise safe for your heart?
“The message needs to be that regular exercise is a wonderful way to stay healthy and reduce cardiovascular disease. In fact, I call exercise the ‘fountain of youth,’” said cardiologist Andrew Freeman, MD, founding co-chair of the American College of Cardiology’s nutrition and lifestyle task force.RELATED
“But I tell people it’s always a good idea to see your primary care doctor or your cardiologist before starting any ambitious exercise program, including Peloton, which I would say is pretty ambitious,” Freeman said.
The bad news continues for Peloton: another character from a television show suffers a heart attack while riding his bicycle
Did Mr. Big, played by actor Chris Noth, go to a doctor’s appointment before putting the pedal to work? If he did, that may have altered the outcome of his cardiac event, but then it could be argued that if Carrie, played by Sarah Jessica Parker, had called 911 instead of holding him as he died, that might also have changed the fate of he.
And what about Wags? Anyone who parties that much is a prime candidate for a cardiac event, on or off a Peloton bike, said Freeman, who is also director of cardiovascular prevention and wellness at National Jewish Health in Denver.
“You take someone who uses all kinds of substances and lives a very stressed life, probably not exercising regularly or eating right, bad things are going to happen sometimes,” Freeman said.
“Yes, there may be a small chance of a heart attack or something bad during any type of intense exertion, but I would say there is a significant risk in not exercising,” he added.
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The benefits of exercise
Study after study proves it: exercise improves your health in ways few other things can. “Only a few lifestyle choices have as big an impact on your health as physical activity,” says the nation’s leading health organization, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, CDC.
Even walking at a moderate pace has been shown to improve cognitive function, help control weight, reduce disease risk, and of course, strengthen bones and muscles.
In fact, getting up and moving for just 21 minutes every day of the week can cut your risk of dying from any cause by a third, according to the CDC.
Some benefits are immediate. After finishing just one 30-minute physical activity, you’ll have less anxiety, lower blood pressure and more insulin sensitivity, and you’ll sleep better that night, the CDC states.
That positive impact increases if you complete the 150 to 300 minutes a week of moderate-intensity exercise recommended for adults. That includes moves like brisk walking, dancing, doubles tennis, water aerobics and, yes, riding a bike.
Within a few months, the CDC says, you’ll see an improvement in your blood pressure and heart and lung functions, as well as a reduced risk of depression, anxiety, type 2 diabetes, and bladder, breast, colon, kidney, lung, and stomach cancers. . There are additional benefits, too: reduced stress, better sleep, and a stronger sex life.
Note: If you are a person with a disability, there are also options for you. Do not give up.
Intense physical activity is not for beginners
Exercise is not without risks. As every beginner knows, too much effort too soon can derail any training program, especially if the muscles aren’t warmed up and stretched well beforehand. Experts suggest that you start slowly, preferably after a medical review.
“Usually, if you haven’t been exercising, we’ll do a stress test, a supervised graded exercise test to make sure you don’t have a heart attack while you’re exercising,” Freeman said.
“Exercise is very safe. It is highly effective,” she added. “But do it safely. If you haven’t been exercising and then you’re going to run marathons or work out in your Peloton or whatever, check with your doctor first.”