The one (life-saving) machine your gym must have

You would do well to heed celebrity trainer Bob Harper’s advice to “never ever walk into a gym..that doesn’t have CPR, people that know their CPR, and there’s an AED [automated external defibrillator] somewhere in that gym.” Harper’s statement is not mere caution; Harper is alive today because of the quick actions of two trainers at his local gym. Last February 2017, the famous CrossFitter went into sudden cardiac arrest and would have died if he was not resuscitated using the AED. The trainer talks about his experience in an interview with Today and is mentioned in an article on

Always check if your gym has an AED

It could save your life. Health and fitness experts advocate the widespread stocking of AEDs in public spaces. These devices, usually held in a small portable box, carry electrical sensors that are used to shock a person’s heart back into rhythm. As of this writing, there are no federal laws requiring the devices in specific locations. American College of Cardiology (ACC) President, Mary Norine Walsh, M.D., recommends checking potential gyms to see if they have these devices, or asking the staff where it is located. Dr. Walsh says in the same article on that “it should depend on your individual risk factors and personal preference. Maybe a group of younger individuals might not consider it, whereas a more middle-age group of amateur athletes might think about it more carefully.”

According to the ACC, sports-related sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) incidents are more prevalent than perceived. People cannot come to terms with the contrast. People think, “Aren’t fit people more healthy?” In general, yes. Numerous studies prove that long-term physical exercise improves overall health and reduces the risk of countless of diseases. Yet, short-term strenuous exercise can lead to an increased risk of cardiac arrest.

Exercise-related SCAs typically occur within one hour of physical activity. In North America and Europe, the incidence of SCAs ranges from 500 to 1,000 per million per year. There are several factors to consider, including age, gender, race, medical problems, and even genetics. In Harper’s case, he was predisposed to the arrest, having a mother who passed away from a heart attack.

The American Heart Association (AHA) says that 350,000 people suffer an out-of-hospital cardiac arrest each year in the United States — a majority of cases occurring while people are working out. In fact, a study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology concluded that 16 percent of reported sudden cardiac arrests over a 12-year period in and around Seattle happened in either a traditional or non-traditional exercise facility.

That being said, there is a higher survival rate for those who suffer a cardiac arrest in a traditional exercise facility. These gyms, usually equipped with an AED, boast a 56 percent survival rate, compared to 45 percent for people who exercise in non-traditional facilities like community centers, church gyms, and dance studios. Those who exercise in public spaces like malls or airports only have a 34 percent survival rate if they go into cardiac arrest.

This isn’t an excuse for a sedentary lifestyle

Dr. Walsh stresses that exercise is still necessary for optimum health. The fact that there is a risk of a sudden cardiac arrest among gym-goers should not deter couch potatoes or hesitant athletes. Exercise-induced SCA can happen to anyone; and even when it does, outcomes are often better. One study in the European Heart Journal notes that 46 percent of exercise-related SCA victims survived, compared to only 17 percent of victims whose arrests are not exercise-related. These numbers hold true even after adjusting for age, location, and AED-use.

An additional factor to consider is to enroll in a gym with staff specifically trained in CPR.

Following these tips can make your exercise routine not only productive, but safe as well.

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