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Heart Palpitations During Workouts: Should I Worry?

Heart Palpitations During Workouts: Should I Worry?

A heart palpitation is an awareness of your heartbeat, and this awareness is certainly evident when you exercise. When you work out, your goal is to get your heart rate up, which inevitably leads to heart palpitations in the form of pounding or racing. And this is, in most cases, a good thing.

But, there are times when exercise-related heart palpitations may be cause for concern.

To help you distinguish between a great heart-pounding workout and one that may be stressing your heart too much, Dr. Satjit Bhusri and the team here at Upper East Cardiology pulled together some points to consider.

When heart pounding is a good thing

You understand how important exercise is for almost every area of your health, and you want to make sure that you're reaping all the benefits.

While any movement is good, really effective exercise involves getting your heart rate up — your heart is, after all, a muscle that you need to keep strong.

This is why most athletes focus on attaining a target heart rate when they exercise, a rate which is unique to each person. Your target heart rate should be between 64% and 76% of your maximum heart rate. 

A good way to figure out your maximum heart rate is to subtract your age from 220. So, a person who is 40 has a maximum heart rate of 180 and their target heart rate should be two-thirds to three-quarters of that number.

The reason we’re reviewing this is that when you hit your target heart rate, you’re going to experience heart palpitations in the form of pounding or racing. And we want that to happen because it means you’re giving your cardiovascular system a good workout.

You should feel pushed when you reach your target heart rate, but as you slow back down, your heart rate should come down and your palpitations should subside.

When palpitations are cause for concern

Now that we understand when heart palpitations are beneficial and guide us toward a good workout, let’s look at instances that may be cause for concern.

Palpitations with any movement

In the scenario above, you ramp up to where your heart is pounding. If, however, your heart starts pounding from the get-go, this is something we want to look at. If any physical exertion, such as climbing a flight of stairs, makes you feel as if you’ve run a marathon and your heart feels like it’s hammering in your chest, please come see us.

Palpitations with other symptoms

Another warning sign during a workout is heart palpitations that are accompanied by other symptoms, such as feeling lightheaded, faint, or nauseous. These aren’t normal side effects of exercise and you should seek our help to figure out why you’re experiencing them.

Fitness-related arrhythmias

If you have an arrhythmia, we do want you to be more aware of your heart palpitations when you exercise. For example, one of the more common arrhythmias is atrial fibrillation (AFib), which is estimated to affect more than 12 million Americans

Not only can AFib flare up when you exercise, making it feel like your heart is fluttering or flip-flopping, but exercise can lead to AFib. Studies show that endurance athletes are 2-10 times more likely to develop AFib than non-athletes, and this can happen early on in your 30s or 40s.

So, if you’re feeling heart palpitations that aren't the usual pounding or racing when you exercise, please come see us so we can determine whether an arrhythmia is present.

The bottom line is that physical activity is critical to good health, so we want you to continue. But we want you to continue safely. So, please come see us if you’re just not feeling right about your heart palpitations when you exercise.

To get started, simply contact our New York City office on the Upper East Side of Manhattan to set up an appointment. You can also call us at (212) 752-3464.

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