The Surprising Truth About Sudden Cardiac Arrest in Seniors During Exercise

Cardiac arrest in seniors due to exercise

Some seniors hesitate to lace up their exercise shoes for fear that exercise will cause a sudden heart attack or cardiac arrest. But here’s the deal – regular exercise reduces your risk of heart disease, which causes most heart attacks. And there’s science to support this. The risk of suddenly having a heart attack during exercise past age 60 is low for most people while the benefits of exercise are huge.

Scientists at Cedars-Sinai studied over 4,000 cases of sudden cardiac arrest. Only 1.9% happened during or after exercise. And those people often had fewer heart risk factors than non-exercisers who had cardiac arrests. So, the risk of your ticker suddenly stopping from exercise after age 60 is super rare. But you know what’s not rare? Heart attacks from being too inactive!

How Exercise Benefits Heart Health at All Ages

We all know exercise is good for us, but let’s get into the nitty-gritty of why it’s so important, especially as we get older. Physical activity strengthens your heart muscle, and a strong ticker is a happy heart.

When you get moving, your heart must pump harder to deliver oxygen-rich blood throughout your body. Over time, consistent exercise makes your heart more efficient, resilient, and able to handle life’s stresses. Just like lifting weights builds your biceps, doing cardio builds a robust heart muscle. And there are more heart- health benefits.

Exercise helps keep blood pressure levels in check. High blood pressure strains your heart and damages arteries over time, increasing your risk for heart attacks and strokes. But staying active can help lower and control blood pressure.

Exercise also helps maintain healthy cholesterol levels. High LDL cholesterol can lead to plaque buildup in arteries, which raises heart disease risk. Staying active boosts protective HDL cholesterol while lowering LDL levels.

Less Stress, More Bliss

Stress is another contributor to heart disease. So, finding healthy ways to manage and reduce stress is important for keeping your heart in tip-top shape. Exercise is a non-prescription solution for busting stress! Working out releases feel-good endorphins that lift your mood and melt away tension. It’s a natural stress reliever. Plus, being active can help improve sleep quality. And we all know better sleep equals less stress and more energy. It’s a win-win!

So. if you’re feeling stressed and anxious, lace up your sneakers and sweat it out! Exercise is proven to lower stress hormones and leave you feeling chilled out. No prescription or therapy session required!

Why Exercise Is Important for Seniors

Contracting your muscles also helps lower your blood sugar.  Here’s the deal: Exercise makes your cells more sensitive to insulin, helping to compensate for the decline in insulin sensitivity that occurs with age. Insulin is the hormone that regulates blood sugar by helping cells absorb glucose for energy.

When your cells are insulin resistant, they ignore insulin knocking at the door. Glucose builds up in your bloodstream instead of entering cells. Not good! This raises the risk for diabetes and other problems. But working out causes your cells to make more insulin receptors – like putting out the welcome mat for insulin. With more receptors, your cells become super responsive to insulin again. Your blood sugar levels stay lower and more stable as a result.

With so many folks dealing with prediabetes and type 2 diabetes, exercise is a simple way to get those insulin receptors pumping. And keeping blood sugar in a healthy range has huge benefits for your overall health. So, lace up your sneakers and get moving – your cells will thank you! Exercise is medicine when it comes to insulin sensitivity and blood sugar control.

Plus, exercise helps reduce weight gain due to aging. Let’s talk about one of the many benefits of exercise – weight management! As we age, we are forced to reckon with a slowing metabolism that makes losing weight more of a challenge. Exercise, particularly strength training, builds metabolically active muscle tissue that helps keep your metabolism primed. Aerobic exercise is your friend too, as it burns calories. Plus, exercise makes you think more about what you eat and choose heart-healthy options.

Get Clearance from Your Doctor Before Starting

Always get medical clearance from a physician before starting an exercise program if you’re over the age of 60 or have health issues, like heart disease, diabetes, or high blood pressure. A doctor can assess overall health status and recommend the best activities for your health and level of conditioning.

A medical evaluation also helps prevent injury. With age, the body becomes more prone to strains, sprains, or other trauma from exercise. A physician can identify potential risk factors and suggest activities to improve balance, flexibility, and strength – all of which reduce fall risk. While the risk of sudden cardiac events from exercise is low, proactive screening provides peace of mind. Get your doctor’s okay, start slowly, and build from there.


Exercise keeps your heart and body healthy. It also lowers your risk of heart disease, diabetes, and other serious conditions. Not to mention it makes you feel energized and improves your mood! So, try not to let the fear of sudden cardiac arrest stop you from getting your workout on.  Staying active will keep your heart happy and healthy for years to come. So, lace up those sneakers and get moving – your heart deserves it!


  • 2023. “Sports-Linked Cardiac Arrest Rare in Seniors, Study Finds.” US News & World Report. U.S. News & World Report. 2023. https://www.usnews.com/news/health-news/articles/2023-02-01/sports-linked-cardiac-arrest-rare-in-seniors-study-finds.
  • Lauri Holmstrom, Harpriya S. Chugh, Audrey Uy-Evanado, Arayik Sargsyan, Chad Sorenson, Shiva Salmasi, Faye L. Norby, Sean Hurst, Christopher Young, Angelo Salvucci, Jonathan Jui, Kyndaron Reinier, and Sumeet S. Chugh. J Am Coll Cardiol EP. Jan 18, 2023. Epublished DOI: 10.1016/j.jacep.2022.10.033.
  • “Exercise and the Heart | Johns Hopkins Medicine.” https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/exercise-and-the-heart.
  • Nystoriak MA, Bhatnagar A. Cardiovascular Effects and Benefits of Exercise. Front Cardiovasc Med. 2018 Sep 28;5:135. doi: 10.3389/fcvm.2018.00135. PMID: 30324108; PMCID: PMC6172294.

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