If you’re hoping a solid workout will help you de-stress, new research suggests making an effort to calm down before heading to the gym is better for your health.
The large, international study has found a link between heavy exertion while stressed or mad, to a tripled risk of having a heart attack within an hour.
While it’s well known that regular exercise can help alleviate stress, researchers say getting too little or too much can be dangerous.
The study, led by the Population Health Research Institute at McMaster University in Hamilton, suggests there are good and bad times to exercise.
Previous studies that examined anger and exertion as heart attack triggers were limited by their small size, and included few women and minorities. This latest study involved 12,461 people suffering a first heart attack in 52 countries. The average age of the participants was 58, and seventy-five per cent were men.
Those participating in the study completed a survey about whether they were angry or upset, or had heavy exertion, about an the hour before their heart attack or during the same time period the previous day.
Researchers could then compare risk at different times in the same people, and the impact of these potential heart attack triggers.
The study found that both heavy physical exertion and being angry/upset doubled the risk of suffering heart attack symptoms within an hour.
Feeling both at the same time more than tripled the risk for a heart attack.
The risk was at it’s highest point between 6 p.m. and midnight, and was independent of other factors including smoking, obesity, and high blood pressure.
Researchers say it should be noted that test subjects reported their own stress or anger, and people who recently had heart attack may have an easier time remembering if they suffered a trigger. The definition of “strenuous exertion” was also subject to the patient’s interpretation.
Since the study is observational, it cannot prove cause and effect. But because it’s not possible to randomly assign people to be angry and exercise and then see how many have heart attacks, it’s likely the closest researchers can get.
Researchers recommend people find ways to reducing their anxiety, stress, or extreme anger before tackling vigorous exercise.
The results of the study, which was funded in-part by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, were published Monday in the Heart Association journal Circulation.