Running and Your Heart

Every February the American Heart Association asks us all to take a minute and think about our hearts. Our hearts pump blood throughout our bodies providing oxygen and nutrients to all of our vital organs and muscles. Once the oxygen is used up by tissues and organs the deoxygenated blood returns to our hearts through our veins and is then sent to the lungs where carbon dioxide and oxygen are exchanged. 

To learn more about running and our hearts, we reached out to Amanda Hajoglou, Clinical Exercise Physiologist at Denver Health. 

“Running along with other aerobic exercise, is good for the heart and the mind,” said Hajoglou. Runners have a lower heart rate and blood pressure at a given submaximal intensity, meaning our hearts don’t have to work as hard. 

By running we are also decreasing our chances for coronary artery disease risk factors like obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, stress, cholesterol, and being sedentary. 

Can running ever be bad for your heart? According to Hajoglou there is a risk of sudden cardiac death and myocardial infarction with any exercise. “The American College of Sports Medicine puts it at .3 to 2.9 events per 10,000 person hours. Sudden cardiac death and myocardial infarction are disproportionality higher in most sedentary individuals when performing unaccustomed or infrequent exercise. The American Heart Association has a risk stratification tool to determine if a person needs to contact their physician before initiating a physical activity program, particularly if the intended exercise intensity is vigorous. Contact your primary physician before changing your exercise routine if you are concerned.”

As runners, we must pay attention to our hearts. When we are running blood is being directed towards the muscles that are currently engaged like our legs, and away from those not in use, like your arms. What is our heart doing during this time? 

‘When a person is running with a proper function heart they will have an increase in heart rate as exercise intensity increases. The heart will also increase its contractility, sending more oxygenated blood to the working muscles,” said Hajoglou. 

The American College of Sports Medicine recommends a person get 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week. This includes walking, running, biking, etc. You can break these minutes however you would like, just want sure you are getting them in. 

Running is great for many reasons, not only does it strengthen the heart, it also helps keep your bones strong. It is also a great way to elevate your heart rate versus other types of activity. 

Don’t forget to listen to your body and note any changes. If you have questions consult a physician. Show your heart some love and it will love you back!