In honor of American Heart Month (aka February), we thought it’d be helpful to share why it’s important to keep your head above your heart when doing intense cardio workouts.
Without getting into the nitty gritty of human anatomy and the cardiovascular system, the main reason you want to keep your head above your heart at all times during a heart-pumping workout is so you don’t get dizzy and possibly faint.
When rocking out to amazing Bollywood hits or Top 40 chart toppers in your class, your need for oxygen will increase due to the fact that you are recruiting muscles as you dance. As the speed of the song climbs, the intensity of the workout and your heart rate will go up as well. Your heart then has to pump faster and harder to deliver oxygenated blood throughout your entire body. While blood pressure may slightly increase initially, usually it’s offset by the fact that your blood vessels dilate to make room for more efficient transport of blood to the muscles. Getting blood to your lower extremities – no problem (yay gravity!). But getting the blood up towards your brain – more work is needed.
While you may think it would help get oxygenated blood to your brain faster if you dipped your head below your heart (using gravity), what ends up happening is potentially very dangerous. Dropping your head mid work-out while your heart is already efficiently pumping blood to your muscles and brain will cause a lot of excess blood to rush to your head due to the sudden added assistance of gravity, increasing the pressure there and causing dizziness. When you follow a head drop with lifting it back up quickly, you may feel light-headed.
Due to the sudden increase, then decrease, of blood to your brain from quick head elevation changes, you may find yourself flat on the floor. Fainting is nature’s way of getting your head and heart on equal levels so the heart doesn’t have to fight an uphill battle to deliver oxygen to the brain.
Summary: when you do a proper warm-up and cool down, and stay upright during the more intense parts of your cardio workout, your body will adjust to the new equilibrium to ensure your muscles and brain get what they need.
Isn’t the human body so amazing? We’ll leave you with a quote by Jim Rohn: “Take care of your body. It’s the only place you have to live.”