Aerobic Exercise and Your Heart
Aerobic exercise three times a week enhances the heart’s ability to pump blood to the tissues and makes new blood vessels. Aerobic exercises, include walking, running, biking, and swimming, and will strengthen the entire cardiovascular system. To better appreciate the results of aerobic exercise, it is beneficial to see the heart as just one component of a complex and interconnected cardiovascular system.
Regular Aerobic Exercise
How to define regular exercise? The National Academy of Sports Medicine recommends thirty minutes of aerobic exercise on three days each week. Remember that the amount of exercise someone does depends on their level of fitness. It is also crucial for individuals with risk factors like asthma, a history of heart condition, over-weight, or other any pre-existing medical condition to consult their doctor before starting exercising. If there is any pain or discomfort felt during exercise, stop the activity.
The physical adaptations to the heart caused by regular aerobic exercises are profound. The chambers of the heart which take in blood, increase in size allowing the heart to pump out a higher volume of blood per beat. The result of higher volume of blood pumped per beat means the heart does not need to pump as fast, meaning you have a
decreased heart rate, which is a good thing. Another affect, is that the ventricles of the heart strengthen in response to increased work load caused by aerobic exercise. Hence, the heart gets stronger and grows in response to regular aerobic exercise which again, will lower a person’s resting heart rate.
During aerobic exercise, the arteries carry oxygenated blood to the tissues dilate, or expand, allowing more blood to pass through them. With regular exercise, walls of the arteries become thinner making the artery more elastic and flexible. These two adaptations lower blood pressure or the force of the blood squeezing through the arteries. Since the heart pumps blood through the arteries, the less resistance between the arteries and blood, the less the heart has to work to pump blood to the tissues. Conversely, ridged arteries have a reduced ability to flex and dilate / expand, which is linked to high blood pressure, which is a risk that may develop into a cardiovascular disease. Another aerobic adaptation to exercise is the formation of collateral arteries that work like a natural bypass to deliver blood around obstructed arteries. These collateral arteries are formed on the surface of the heart and supply blood to the brain, and reduce the risk of heart attacks and strokes.
In response to aerobic exercise, capillaries which transfer oxygenated blood from arteries to muscles, and transfer deoxygenated blood from muscles to veins, will create new branches of capillaries. Think of the muscles as a popular mall and the arteries and veins as highways parallel to the mall. The capillaries are the on and off -ramps of those highways. The more popular the mall, or the more a muscle is being worked out, the more on and off-ramps are created to keep up with demand of the muscles. With these additional capillaries, more blood can go to and from the working muscles making muscles more resistant to fatigue.
The benefits of aerobic exercise go way beyond weight loss and stress reduction. Other benefits include building a stronger heart, reduced resting blood pressure, and a lower heart rate to name a few. Aerobic exercises, known as cardiovascular exercise in the medical community, are a form of preventative medicine, preventing some cardiovascular conditions such as stroke and heart attack. Like all medicine, it is crucial to determine the proper dose of exercise for each individual based on how conditioned they are and their own medical history.