Brain and Body

Scientific Evidence That You Shouldn’t Do a Hard Workout While Angry

October 11, 2016 | Kelly Tatera

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The risk of a heart attack is more than tripled, according to the largest-ever study of its kind.

“Blowing off steam” at the gym might not be the best way to deal with anger after all, new research finds.

In fact, engaging in vigorous exercise while angry or upset more than triples the risk of a heart attack, according to the largest study of its kind, published in the American Heart Association’s journal Circulation.

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Additionally, the research team investigated exercise and emotional stress individually, in order to gauge their separate effects on heart attack risk. On their own, each of these factors more than doubled the risk of the onset of heart attack symptoms within the hour. Coupled together, the effect is even stronger.

It’s important to clarify that this research isn’t meant to discourage people from exercising — physical activity has a laundry list of benefits on body and mind, namely the prevention of heart disease. However, lead author Dr. Andrew Smyth says he and his research team “would recommend that a person who is angry or upset [and] who wants to exercise to blow off steam not go beyond their normal routine.”

To come to these conclusions, the researchers looked at data from the INTERHEART study, which included over 12,400 patients, with an average age of 58, from 52 different countries. The study participants had all experienced heart attacks and completed questionnaires about the “triggers” they experienced in the hour leading up to the attack.

As per the results, 13 percent of the study population had engaged in exercise and 14 percent were angry or upset. Although the researchers accounted for the effects of other risk factors like smoking, obesity, age, and high blood pressure, they clarify that the study did have its limitations — for one, the participants’ memories of their physical activity levels and emotional states during the time before their heart attacks may not have been perfect recollections.

Still, “this large, nearly worldwide study provides more evidence of the crucial link between mind and body,” Dr. Barry Jacobs, the director of behavioral sciences at the Crozer-Keystone family medicine residency program, told The Guardian.

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