Spin classes have become extremely popular in recent years. These high-intensity cycling workouts that generally take place on static bikes give participants a serious workout. In fact, a 40-minute session can help burn up to 600 calories and provide a full-body workout.
The fact there are hundreds of specialist spin studios and an increasing number of UK gyms now offer spin classes means they are more accessible than ever. Moreover, the pumping music and party-esque vibe makes spinning highly appealing to many younger people.
However, it seems the furious peddling isn’t for everyone and some individuals have been left hospitalised following intense spin classes.
Doctors are reporting that they are seeing more patients presenting with exertion-related rhabdomyolysis or ‘rhabdo’. This serious syndrome occurs as a result of direct or indirect muscle injury. The muscle fibres die and their contents are released into the bloodstream, which can, in severe cases, lead to renal (kidney) failure.
One of the problems being cited is the introductory bundles of classes offered by many gyms. Because they inevitably have to be used up within a short period of time, people are cramming in too many spin classes so as not to lose the welcome gift.
As a result, people end up doing too many spin classes in a week, way more than their bodies can take.
‘A Growing Problem’
Dr Shruti Goel, a consultant in renal and acute medicine at Hillingdon NHS Hospital Trust, told the Daily Mail, “Exertion-related rhabdomyolysis is a growing problem and we are seeing more cases in A&E”.
Most of the time, rhabdomyolysis causes no symptoms. In fact, it is how bigger muscles are created. However, if the process occurs too fast or for too long, the subsequent muscle breakdown is too severe and large quantities of potassium and phosphate are released into the blood. At the same time, myoglobin is also released. This toxic combination often leads to a medical emergency and can even be fatal.
Initial symptoms to look out for are muscle pain and swelling that doesn’t settle quickly, as well as nausea, dark urine, fever and abdominal pain.
Of the people who develop exertion-related rhabdomyolysis, around 4% go on to experience acute kidney injury, which may require dialysis.
The bottom line is that while spin classes offer an intense workout and can help someone burn a large number of calories, they definitely aren’t for gym newbies. Their competitive nature often means that people push themselves too far. Couple this with the fact many people undertake them several times in a week and you’ve got a potentially lethal set of circumstances.
Individuals who are just starting out on a longer exercise journey or those who have exercised in some time should start with low-impact cardiovascular training. Walking or cycling and yoga are perfect for beginners. It’s also a good idea to tell your gym instructor that you are new and not yet used to intense exercise regimes.
The advice is clear: if you feel unwell following a particularly intense exercise class, seek medical help. You could be experiencing symptoms of rhabdomyolysis.
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