On June 4, a young man collapsed in the gym after he completed the day's workout session at Palanganatham in Madurai. Fellow gym members rushed 27-year-old Sri Vishnu to the LP hospital and later Meenakshi Mission hospital where doctors declared him dead on arrival.
"He would work till 8.30 pm and return home by 9 pm. He would spend some time with his mother and leave for the gym. My son neither had drinking or smoking habits and didn’t suffer from any medical conditions," says his distraught father Kamaleshwaran. Sri Vishnu lived with his parents and twin sisters in Thiruvalluvar Nagar and worked in a computer service centre. He started going to the gym when he was 24 and for the last year, he was doing his fitness sessions at Yuva sports club, Madakulam road in Madurai.
His trainer Manickam says that Vishnu was always keen to do general workouts for weight gain. "On June 04, in between the workout, he ate bananas that we had requested him not to eat. But he did have them and then continued with the workouts. He was lifting 20 kg weight, which is a moderate weight that we advise fitness enthusiasts who have been weight training for more than 2 years to use. For triceps muscle building, he lifted that weight. Around 10.15 in the night, he completed his workout. But within a few minutes, everything changed. He collapsed while he was talking to us. We called his father and took him to the hospitals LP and Meenakshi Mission. Unfortunately, the doctors declared that he was brought dead. I have never seen such a heart-wrenching incident," rues Manickam.
TNM spoke with trainers, cardiologists and nutritionists to understand how to prevent such incidents and what youngsters and gym goers should keep in mind while doing workouts.
"From basic weight loss, shaping up and strengthening exercises, to athletic fitness and weightlifting championships, people prefer gyms for many reasons. Their needs and motives are different. Not only the body type, but diet, rest, and breaks also differ from person to person and one cannot force oneself to get six-pack abs in a shorter period," says Chennai-based trainer and physiotherapist Yamuna.
According to her, in the last three years, lifestyles have changed completely due to COVID-19 and the pandemic-induced lockdown. "Men and women face various health issues and now, we are seeing more people coming to gyms to reduce weight. Ideally, the weight loss should not exceed 3 kg per month", she adds.
Chennai-based cardiologist Dr V Chokkalingam listed the factors behind such occurrences and why India tops the list when it comes to heart attacks and cardiac arrest. "Out of 100 heart-related deaths, 30 people die due to cardiac arrest because it is impossible to treat the patient within 2 minutes since cardiac arrest is an electric failure of the heart where the heart stops beating. To prevent such deaths, one has to lead a stress-free happy life.”
“Exercise releases happy hormones like dopamine and endorphins. But youngsters go to the gyms to reduce their weight, build muscles and achieve something through vigorous exercise. It is not reflecting happiness and leads to the release of stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline. If a person has chronic stress by fixing targets in the gym, his stress hormone content will be released at a higher level in the blood. It will separate the cholesterol from the blood and let it deposit on the walls of the blood vessels. This condition is known as coronary obstruction. It disturbs the heart's function.”
Many people do not take rest properly and do aggressive workouts, Dr Chokkalingam points out. “These aggressive workouts and stress can lead to the erosion and clotting in the blood vessel lining. This condition is known as coronary thrombosis. Coronary thrombosis blocks 100% of the blood vessels. A lot of heart muscles can get damaged if it occurs in the major blood vessels. These damaged heart muscles would then pump 200 times per minute followed by severe vessel spasms. This condition can induce cardiac arrest and death of a person in just 2 minutes. These fatal conditions are preventable only by following a positive mindset and lifestyle," he adds.
The doctor also asked people over the age of 20 to check their blood pressure (BP), cholesterol, and blood sugar once every five years. "These are the silent killers and worsen the health condition. And adults should quit smoking since it also induces coronary thrombosis."
Chennai-based fitness coach Prasanth says it is important that people go for annual health checkups. “He had a cardiac arrest when he was in the gym. Generally, we don't care much about our health conditions until our daily routine is affected by them. We don't do annual health checkups to know ourselves better. If we know ourselves better, it would help us improve our health. There might be some underlying health conditions that led him to have a cardiac arrest," he adds.
The fitness training programs are prepared for the individuals after knowing their motives, and the training programs also differ according to a person’s weight, says Yamuna. “We categorise the programs according to their body mass index. We advise people to go for 50 to 75% workouts for those who prefer the gym for basic fitness needs. We will push the athletes only to have 75% to 85% workout and weightlifting sportspersons have to follow 100% vigorous training.”
Yamuna says it is not always advisable for normal people who want to have basic workout programs to go with vigorous training. Gyms should not promise the clients rapid weight loss for the gym's gains, as this can lead to unwanted health issues. Besides, a gym should follow the protocols to function properly, she adds.
"Supplements and steroids are not a healthy way to improve fitness. In the fitness industry, it is not always advisable but one can take supplements like whey protein if you are having a busy schedule. However, food always plays the main role when it comes to fitness. We have to analyse and observe the body type. But a cardiac arrest would not take place just because someone took steroids. It is the collective result of restlessness, wrong food intake, excessive workouts, and ego-lifting (when someone attempts to lift more weight than they should)," says Chennai-based nutritionist Priyanka.