Two days ago, I tried a 20-minute tabata workout and my apple watch (worn around my arm not wrist for increased accuracy) said that for 15 min my hr was 185-194 and it stayed above 120 for over 30 minutes post-workout.

I actually had fun pushing myself that hard and I'd like to make it a staple of my cutting routine. After my hr dropped back down I felt fine. Is it safe to have that high of an HR for that long?

I'm a healthy 20-year-old male in pretty good shape, with no heart problems or family history of heart problems.

I'm not asking for specific medical advice, rather is there a large number of people dropping dead from this type of workout?

  • 2
    I asked my neighbor (an ER doctor) about this once after he saw me doing burpees in my front yard in the middle of July. He came over and asked how long I’d been doing it and had this concerned look on his face. I showed him my watch and I asked if the HR was a problem and he said “No, not at all. I’m just checking to see if you’re dehydrated!” He told me to hydrate and be careful.
    – Frank
    Commented Apr 25, 2018 at 22:38

1 Answer 1


Outside of viral internet stories, cardiac arrest during exercise is exceedingly rare. It is estimated to occur between 1 in 40,000 to 1 in 80,000 athletes per year. Even then, it's usually caused by some other underlying issue that the athlete was previously unaware of.

So it's not really something to worry about. Other parts of your body will start breaking down before your heart does.

  • Turns out the first link is behind some kind of account wall (I was able to read it the first time I opened it). It basically just says that a new study found that cardiac arrest in exercise is rare.
    – DeeV
    Commented Apr 25, 2018 at 21:30
  • How about the untrained or barely trained general population that works out infrequently but occasionally goes really hard when they do? Would those statistics look different from athletes?
    – HK1
    Commented Apr 29, 2018 at 16:47
  • @HK1 I'd imagine so. The statistic I quoted was for a very wide range of what an "athlete" is. It admitted that some demographics are more susceptible to sudden death than others (men over the age of 55 are more at risk than men in their early 20s for example). Though part of the issue is you have to somehow get your HR up to a very high number and hold it for a prolonged period of time. It's not easy for anyone to do that especially an untrained individual. Exhaustion can be a very effective safety mechanism to ensure you don't go beyond your capacity.
    – DeeV
    Commented Apr 29, 2018 at 17:22
  • Though it does note that in most cases it is still caused by an underlying heart condition that the person is unaware of. So the statistic would be reliant on whether an untrained individual would be more or less likely to be aware of a heart issue.
    – DeeV
    Commented Apr 29, 2018 at 17:30
  • There was an interesting post on Reddit a few weeks ago that would seem to disagree with what you're saying here concerning underlying heart issues being the primary reason that people die unexpectedly during strenuous exercise. It seems that arrhythmias can crop up unexpectedly and cause cardiac arrest and that this is more common that was previously thought. link to reddit post
    – HK1
    Commented Apr 30, 2018 at 17:52

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