Also known as heart palpitations, an irregular heartbeat associated with exercising usually manifests as an unnatural fluttering, skipping or pounding of the heart. It is often conspicuous enough to to detect without using a heart monitor or checking pulse. Although they can be jarring, irregular heartbeats usually do not present any real danger, unless an underlying condition exists. If you experience an irregular heartbeat while exercising often, visit a doctor or cardiologist.
Cardiovascular stress due to increased activity and associated hormones, such as adrenaline, are the most common causes of heart palpitations while exercising. Outside influences may increase the likelihood of experiencing an abnormal heartbeat, however. These include anxiety, stress, certain medications, cocaine, fear, fever, hyperventilation, hypoventilation, diet pills and nicotine. While these catalysts may not necessarily present more health risks than naturally-induced palpitations, they can aggravate underlying conditions, resulting in potential danger.
Whereas most cases of abnormal heartbeats resulting from exercise are not worrisome, potential dangers exist depending on severity. Exceeding your maximum heart rate can result in hyperventilation, fainting, stroke and heart attack. Measure your maximum heart rate by subtracting your age from 220. Those unaccustomed to exercise or activity may want to target 40 to 50 percent of their maximum heart rate to avoid inordinate cardiovascular stress. Monitor you heart rate frequently by checking your pulse at your carotid artery on your neck, below your jaw and beside your esophagus.
Since an abnormal heartbeat results from stress to the cardiovascular system, the best way to prevent it is to alleviate sources of stress. Accordingly, you should maintain a balanced diet low in fat and cholesterol, avoid smoking and manage tension. Although an abnormal heartbeat often accompanies exercise, the body will eventually adapt with regularity, reducing instances of heart palpitations or eliminating them altogether. Stretching, breathing and isometric exercises can also increase circulation, thereby reducing pressure on the heart and preventing palpitations.
Possible underlying conditions of an irregular heartbeat include an arterial fibrillation, which causes a fast heartbeat almost indistinguishable from palpitations. Caused by chaotic electrical impulses in the atria, or upper chambers of the heart, that make the impulses in the ventricles irregular, arterial fibrillation can produce serious conditions such as stroke. Other conditions include heart disease, anemia, thyroid disorders and malnutrition.