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Exercise at work can be harmful to the heart, unlike exercise
Exercising regularly, carrying weights at work, and going out with friends all have different effects on cardiovascular health. Physical education, as expected, was beneficial, but excessive physical activity at work worsened the condition of the vessels.
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Exercising regularly, carrying weights at work, and walking with friends all have different effects on cardiovascular health. Exercise, as expected, was beneficial, but excessive exercise at work worsened vascular health, scientists from France and Australia showed. The results of their work are published in Hypertension.
Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death worldwide. Physical activity is considered a major ally in the fight against them, and international guidelines emphasize the need to be active in order to avoid premature death from cardiovascular causes.
The authors analyzed data from an extensive 10-year French study that tracked the health of more than 10,000 volunteers aged 50 to 75.
“Our idea was to find out if all types of physical activity are beneficial, or if physical activity can be harmful in some cases,” explained lead author Jean-Philippe Empana.
Participants filled out a questionnaire on the frequency, duration and intensity of their physical activity in three different situations: physical activity in sports, physical activity at work (for example, carrying heavy weights) and physical activity in their free time (for example, gardening and walking).
The participants' cardiovascular health was then assessed based on the condition of their arteries. For this, ultrasound imaging of the carotid artery was used. Using this method, the researchers measured baroreflex sensitivity (baroreflex is the body's self-regulation mechanism that helps maintain a constant level of blood pressure). Disturbances in this system can lead to serious health problems and an increased risk of cardiac arrest.
Physiologists distinguish two components of the baroreflex:
Mechanical baroreflex (measurement of arterial stiffness - the degree of their elasticity). Its disorders are associated with cardiovascular diseases due to aging.
- Nervous baroreflex. To determine it, scientists measured nerve impulses that receptors send to the walls of an artery in response to vascular distension.
According to the data obtained, with high-intensity sports physical activity, the nervous baroreflex improves. At the same time, physical activity in the form of constant carrying of weights is more associated with deviations from the norm of both nervous baroreflex and mechanical (increase in arterial stiffness). Such activity, according to scientists, can potentially harm the cardiovascular system, increasing the risk of arrhythmias and increasing the risk of death.
“Our results provide a valuable avenue for research into the links between physical activity and cardiovascular disease. They do not demonstrate that movement at work is unhealthy. On the contrary, it is argued that constant, strenuous activities (such as lifting heavy loads) at work can cause harm,”said Jean-Philippe Empana.
The researchers plan to replicate these results in other populations with a view to studying the interaction between physical activity and health in more detail.