Is It Safe? Training With An Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm Or Other Serious Health Challenge, Revisited.

FitOldDog's gym viewed in the mirror, Kinetix Carrboro NC USA

Is it safe?

Hi folks, welcome!

From time to time I’m asked directly for advice on exercise with an aortic aneurysm, and here is such an example, provided as a excerpt from a comment stream on the Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm Awareness Facebook page.

Ranjit: “There’s this gentleman I played golf with once. He was my age 64yrs and very well built. I was not aware that he had been treated with endovascular surgery/stent for an abdominal aortic aneurysm! I am told he was a bit of a gym rat and passed away in the gym as his aneurysm had ruptured. My friends cited this case and asked me to exercise with caution, as I too have a stent due to AAA.”

There are many ways to come to grief on the bike, some of which are called bonking. From the 'Tuned in to Cycling' blog.

Is it safe?

Bonnie: Hell, I have Had a MISPLACED Abdo Aortic Stent for Almost 10 Years..I have never Been Told To Watch Exercise…I Also Have 2 Stents in Left Renal Artery (Due to the Misplaced AA Stent)..No Restrictions!”

Alan: “High blood pressure spikes during exercise can cause dissection. Valsalva during workouts can kill you. My opinion and most of the top Ten surgeons opinions.”

Pauline: “You can probably become acceptably fit with low weight, lots of reps, which may be safer.”

Swim start at the Lake Placid Ironman, for which you had better be ready mentally and physically.

Is it safe?

Bill: “They haven’t found a genetic cause of my dissection but it happened after a hard workout at the gym. And you think you are exercising to stay healthy yet it can kill you”

Ranjit: “Kevin, I bench press like a sissy with 40 kgs, and deadlift 40 to 50 kgs. Bicep curls with 10 kg dumbells.I do sets of 10,10,10 reps. Is this safe enough? Please advise. Thanks!”

My first reaction was, he’s lifting far too much weight in the dead lift, but the bench press is fine IF he isn’t transferring load to his abdomen. I, personally, would back off on the weight and increase the reps. Too much weight!!! This does not mean that I am correct in his case, see below:

My longterm advice, Ranjit, is fairly simple:

I'm not much for triathlon stickers on my car, but here is one that certainly does not interest me, personally.

I’m not much for triathlon stickers on my car, but here is one that certainly does not interest me, personally.

  1. Collect information and understand as much as you can about your condition, and the risks associated.
  2. Research the literature – for instance, I found an example where a person displaced their AAA stent graft through vigorous rowing, and I haven’t used the rowing machine to warm up in the gym since. I now use an elliptical trainer.
  3. Ask your medical professionals for their advice, but remember that they are not you and they may not understand why you want to do what you want to do. They are also concerned about litigation.
  4. Talk to other people with a similar condition, and get a feel for what people are doing safely.
  5. Carry out your own benefit/risk assessment (I wrote an outline blog about this idea, previously).
  6. Don’t, whatever you do, become a prisoner of fear or throw your life away by making unwise exercise choices – the classic human paradox.

Do your homework and enjoy your life.

-k @FitOldDog



  1. It’s hard trying to figure out what you can and can’t do. As I’ve stated before I’ve gotten a hold of the ten best Aorta Surgeons and asked the same question and except for no weight lifting I’ve gotten ten different answers of what I can and can’t do.
    Just today I went to see my new cardiologist and she just wants me to do a brisk 20 minute walks. When I told her I do 1.5 hour walks she almost had a heart attack, lol.
    Then when you ask them about all this new technology and medicines that we’ve been reading about, you get the Deer in the headlights look.
    I swear, I know more about aneurysms then most if these cardiologists.

    • Hi Alan, I guess the trick is to know more about your aneurysm than anyone in the world, and then work out your choices, and if necessary push the system for a fix if that is needed now. Otherwise, you have to do the best benefit/risk assessment you can and try to live from day to day without a thought to your ascending aorta. Easier said than done. If you ever find a cardiologist with an ascending aortic aneurysm at 4.2 I bet they understand and will listen. Wonder if you can get some high quality images of your aortic arch, so we could take a direct look. That sure helped for me. Just a thought. Cheers, Kevin

  2. Kevin, I think some of the problem can be addressed with positioning as you suggested and also evaluating breathing patterns. Not sure but I dont thing that standing will be a good idea because of the use of intrinsic torso and pelvic muscles. I look forward to working on a new position.

    Your mantra of THINK and awareness is spot on. Love it.

    Also great advice ” you don’t want to kill yourself unnecessarily” haha

    • Hi Victor, the real trick will be to develop a cycling technique that does not excessively move, distort, or pull on the junction of the stent extension with Rupert. This will need some imaging for a range of hip flexion/extension. Look forward to seeing you at Johnny’s in the morning. I wonder how your pivot is treating you? Cheers, Kevin

  3. janet hopper says

    You mean after surgery for abdominal aortic aneurysm, the stents can become misplaced?

    • Hi Janet, sorry for the delay, but I was having surgery, and been recovering. Yes, you can displace a stent. I found an article reporting 5 such cases, one with intense rowing. So, I think all the time about how to train safely. Three things came together on this one, including a freak bike wreck that created a problem that was waiting to happen. OK, back to sleep. I felt bad taking so long to reply, but I was called by the nurse to go into anesthesia, and that is all I can remember. Kind Regards, Kevin

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Disclaimer: As a veterinarian, I do not provide medical advice for human animals. If you undertake or modify an exercise program, consult your medical advisors before doing so. Undertaking activities pursued by the author does not mean that he endorses your undertaking such activities, which is clearly your decision and responsibility. Be careful and sensible, please.