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Is Spinning as Dangerous as People Are Saying?

Is Spinning as Dangerous as People Are Saying?
Here’s what to know about the link between Spinning and kidney failure. Photo Credit: kzenon/iStock/GettyImages

Spinning has steadily gained in popularity over recent years, with new studios seemingly popping up on every street corner. This fast-paced form of cardio promises to burn up to 600 calories per class, but is the intensity of the stationary bike workout causing harm?

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For Spin enthusiasts worried about the workout’s recent link to kidney damage, there’s both good news and bad news: On the one hand, the condition is preventable and not entirely Spinning-specific. The bad news is that kidney damage — and other health risks — that can result from extreme exercise is a very real thing.

The condition that’s causing all the concern of late is called exertional rhabdomyolysis, which happens when someone exercises so hard they cause trauma to their own muscles. This could happen with any exercise in which a person overdoes it, but Spin classes seem to encourage going “hard” — which can be dangerous for someone who has never done it before, putting them at an increased risk of this condition.

Dr. Derek Fine, associate professor of medicine and interim chief of nephrology at Johns Hopkins Medicine, tells CNN that as cells break down and burst as a result of this muscle trauma, they release myoglobin, a protein that can poison the kidneys.

The recent panic over the link between Spinning and kidney failure first began when the American Journal of Medicine31206-2/fulltext) documented three recent cases in which patients suffered from exertional rhabdomyolysis after taking a Spin class for the first time. The patients experienced severe dehydration, and one even required dialysis as she began experiencing kidney failure.

According to a recent study reported by CNN, of the 46 people documented with rhabdomyolysis in medical literature, 42 developed it after their first Spin class. In mild cases, patients are given fluids to rehydrate and are usually released from the hospital after a few days. In more serious cases, dialysis could be required to prevent the kidneys from shutting down. Surgery may also be necessary to release pressure from the muscles.

Now, in an age of CrossFit, SoulCycle, P90X and other “go big or go home” workout classes, cases of exertional rhabdomyolysis seem to be on the rise. Spinning is getting the most negative press for the condition, likely due to the heated studios and the fact that cyclists push themselves harder than they would in an outdoor environment.

“I mean, Spinning you burn 600 calories in an hour, and you lose up to a liter an hour of sweat,” Dr. Maureen Brogan, lead author of the rhabdomyolysis study said, according to CNN. “Six-hundred calories is like running six miles. So if you’re not conditioned, you wouldn’t just run six miles.”

This isn’t the first time an expert has warned about the dangers of Spinning.

But again, it’s not Spinning itself, but rather forcing yourself beyond your threshold that’s so dangerous. The important thing is to start slowly and gradually, especially if it’s a new workout for you, and alert the instructor if it is your first time. Also, doctors stress the importance of hydrating before, during and after a workout and to place more priority on listening to your body rather than pushing it.

What Do YOU Think?

How will this news affect your workouts? Will you think twice before pushing yourself to exercise harder in the future? Tell us in the comments!

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