Last Updated on July 19, 2019 by Rachael Kraft
Have you ever felt like you needed to “blow off some steam” at the gym?
Your day was frustrating, your boss was on your back, and the parking ticket on your car just threw you into a blind rage.
So you headed to the gym, full of anger, and decided to pump some iron, beat on a punching bag, or run on the treadmill until you drop.
Yup… we’ve all been there.
It’s common for people to use exercise as a way to cope with anger. But a recent study shows this might not be the best idea.
It can actually put your health at great risk. How? Well, let’s dive into the research…
Researchers decided to take a closer look at the health consequences of working out in a heightened state of emotion.
They published their results in the journal Circulation, associated with the American Heart Association. And, according to them, exercising when angry can have some pretty bad outcomes.
Now, before you dismiss this article and head back to the gym for some free sweat therapy, hear us out. There’s actually a pretty sensible reason behind these statements.
The study included participants from 262 health centers across 52 different countries. So this is what we would call a very comprehensive study.
They gathered information from such a diverse group of people so they could take a wide range of factors into account. Age, ethnicity, diet, physical activity, tobacco use, education, employment, psychosocial factors, and cardiovascular risk factors… they were all considered.
Plus, all participants in the study underwent a physical evaluation and answered a few simple questions. Two of the questions went something like this:
Did you ever suffer a heart attack within one hour of heavy physical activity?
Were you angry or emotionally upset prior to having your heart attack?
Okay, now you can see where we’re going with this…
It’s your heart.
It turns out, the combination of anger and heavy physical activity is the perfect recipe for a heart attack. And remember, this applies to people across the board… not just older people from a certain demographic.
The official results showed 12,461 cases where people had experienced a heart attack. Of these, 1,695 people were working out and 1,794 were angry in the hour before it happened. These results held up across the globe regardless of location, age, or risk factors.
These are some pretty serious numbers.
It means being angry or upset DOUBLES your risk of a heart attack within one hour. Then, a heavy workout – especially for those who don’t work out regularly – has a similar risk.
Combining the factors, your risk of a heart attack when working out angry is TRIPLE the risk if you had just decided to stay home and chill.
So yeah, working out when angry is not the best idea. In fact, it’s probably a really bad idea especially if you already suffer from high blood pressure.
Dr. Andrew Smyth, the study’s lead author from the population health research institute at Canada’s McMaster University, explains why these combined factors are so lethal. “Both can raise blood pressure and heart rate, changing the flow of blood through blood vessels and reducing blood supply to the heart.”
To put it quite simply, Dr. Smyth says, “excess anger, under the wrong conditions, can cause a life-threatening heart attack. All of us should practice mental wellness and avoid losing our tempers to extremes.”
Now that you can connect all the dots, hopefully this is making sense for you. When we’re enraged because a co-worker stole your last piece of pizza from the office fridge, it makes your blood pressure spike. Then, things get even worse when you go to the gym.
So, our advice to you?
Maybe chill out a bit if you’re upset. Try one of these other ways to release your rage and find your inner zen…
Meditation – While this may be on the complete opposite end of the spectrum from high-intensity exercise, that doesn’t mean it’s not effective.
Meditation is a great way to get your emotions under control and give yourself a chance to calm down. Breathing techniques used during meditation can be used to slow your heart rate and have been proven to lower your blood pressure.
Yoga/Pilates – If you feel like you need a bit more activity to counteract your emotions, try a little compromise. Yoga or pilates will provide you with some physical exertion to keep your body occupied, while also utilizing those all-important breathing techniques.
This level of physical exertion isn’t going to be considered dangerous, so you don’t need to worry about making your situation any worse.
Go For A Walk – When you’re angry, sometimes a change of scenery can make a world of difference. Getting away from your surroundings and out of your own head may be just what you need. Get out and go for a walk. You can relieve some physical stress, without exerting too much effort, and take in some fresh air to clear your mind while you’re at it.
Talk To A Friend or Write It Down – We’ve all done it when we’re angry…played through every possible scenario and thought of all the things we wish we’d said.
Getting those thoughts out of your head, whether to someone listening or onto a piece of paper, can offer some major relief. This is a simple way to blow off some steam without blowing a gasket in your heart.
After we’ve covered all of these reasons NOT to go to the gym, let’s roll things back just a smidge. Yes, you should absolutely keep working towards your fitness goals. Exercise isn’t the enemy.
Following an exercise plan, working out on your treadmill, or lifting some weights is a great part of a healthy lifestyle. It will keep you feeling fit and healthy for years to come.
Just use some common sense. Don’t make things worse for yourself when you’re already feeling over-stressed and upset. Remember those alternatives the next time you need to blow off some steam and keep your heart safe to exercise another day.
Physical Activity and Anger or Emotional Upset as Triggers of Acute Myocardial Infarction: The INTERHEART Study. Andrew Smyth , Martin O’Donnell , Pablo Lamelas , Koon Teo , Sumathy Rangarajan , and Salim Yusuf; 2016
How To Lower Your Heart Rate: Jaime Lowe; 2017