Your heart is one of if not the most important organ in your body. Making sure it is healthy and working efficiently is paramount in leading a healthy and long life. Does your heart benefit from exercise? How does exercise affect your heart overall and in the long run? The quick answer is yes, exercise is great for your heart for a number of reasons.
Lower Resting Heart Rate
Exercise, especially cardiovascular exercises like running and biking, direct your blood flow toward the muscles that you are working during your time of exercise and away from areas that aren’t really doing anything. This increases the blood volume that returns back to the heart and will make the heart’s left ventricle adapt and enlarge, thus letting the heart hold more blood which will help it eject more blood for each beat of the heart, even at rest.
This process, which comes from consistent exercise, helps the heart work less. As it pumps out more blood with each beat, the heart does not need to beat as many times to function as it would if there was no exercise present.
Strength Training and the Heart
Just like cardiovascular exercise, strength training also has great benefits to the heart. Similar to how the left ventricle will adapt and enlarge, during strength training, the heart’s left ventricle wall will grow thicker. This may be alarming to some as they know that high blood pressure can also cause a thickness to this wall. Unlike high blood pressure thickness, this is a good thickness that the heart can use to its advantage.
The difference is that a heart that is thick due to high blood pressure will be working all the time to accommodate this and may become exhausted. The healthy, strength training heart, will only have to work under this type of pressure for a couple of hours during the week while you are strength training. This makes the heart become stronger and also helps make it have a lower resting heart rate.
Exercise also increases the production of new blood vessels. Our body makes more blood vessels to accommodate the increasing amount of blood that is being pumped out during the exercise session. Having an increased amount of blood vessels helps improve circulation. You can also note that cardio exercises will increase the number of new blood vessels and strength training will increase the size of your blood vessels, just like it does for your muscles.
The American Heart Association recommends that the average person performs 30 minutes of exercise at least a couple of days during the week.