When choosing an exercise program, it's important to consider the types of movement involved and the benefits and risks. Isometric exercises are a static form of exercise with fixed movements that create muscle tension. This type of exercise can be potentially dangerous if you have certain preexisting health conditions. Whether you are engaging in a specific sport or heading to the gym to work out, consult your doctor and decide if isometric exercises are right for you.
For healthy individuals, isometric exercise can be beneficial if you have been injured or have arthritis. But if you have high blood pressure or heart problems, your health care provider may advise against any form of isometric exercise. Isometric exercises require contracting muscle against a fixed resistance. Weight lifting and snow shoveling are two examples. The applied muscle tension can improve your strength, but the intensity of the isometric exercise can raise your heart rate and can affect your blood pressure.
If you have high blood pressure, your doctor may consider isometric exercises to be dangerous and recommend you avoid them. Isometric movement creates increased muscle tension. As you increase the tension, your blood vessels constrict and your blood pressure increases. An increase in blood pressure during the workout is not dangerous if your resting blood pressure is normal. But if you have uncontrolled hypertension an additional increase in pressure during an isometric exercise can be considered a health risk.
Avoid isometric exercises if you have a heart condition or a history of heart disease. Weightlifting or daily isometric movements, such as straining to open a window or snow shoveling, will also increase muscle tension. This overexertion can aggravate a preexisting cardiovascular problem. The tension caused by these movements lead to a constricted blood flow that deprives your organs and tissues of oxygen. This can put you at a greater health risk and make an existing heart condition worse.
Regular exercise is typically considered safe for most individuals, and the benefits usually outweigh the dangers or risks. But if you and your doctor determine that isometric exercise is dangerous based on your health history, consider alternatives that include more dynamic or active movements. Dynamic exercise is a low-resistance movement or workout that involves repetition and performance. Engaging in a dynamic sport or workout on a regular basis will increase your endurance, and your doctor may recommend it as a safe alternative if you have high blood pressure or heart problems. Walking, swimming, aerobics and elliptical training are a few examples of dynamic exercise.
Kris Heeter is a research scientist specializing in basic cancer and disease research. Her work has appeared in several scholarly journals and online publications. Heeter has also been a wellness professional for more than 15 years, teaching healthy cooking courses and fitness classes. She holds a Ph.D. in molecular and cellular biology.