Exercise's Effects on the Heart

Inactivity is one of the four major risk factors for coronary artery disease, on par with smoking, unhealthy cholesterol, and high blood pressure. However, exercise helps improve heart health in people with many forms of heart disease and can even reverse some risk factors, such as some of the effects of smoking.         

Like all muscles, the heart becomes stronger and larger as a result of exercise, so it can pump more blood through the body with every beat and sustain its maximum level with less strain. The resting heart rate of those who exercise regularly is also slower because less effort is needed to pump blood.         

People who exercise the most often and vigorously have the lowest risk for heart disease, but any exercise is beneficial. Exercise has a number of effects that benefit the heart and circulation, including improving cholesterol and lipid levels, reducing inflammation in the arteries, assisting weight loss programs, and helping to keep blood vessels flexible and open.

Studies continue to show that physical activity and avoiding high-fat foods are the two most successful means of reaching and maintaining heart healthy levels of fitness and weight. Some studies suggest that for the greatest heart protection, it is not the duration of a single exercise session that counts but the total daily amount of energy expended. Therefore, the best way to exercise may be in multiple short bouts of intense exercise, which can be particularly helpful for older people.         

Resistance (weight) training has also been associated with heart protection. It may offer a complementary benefit to aerobics by reducing LDL levels. Exercises that train and strengthen the chest muscles may prove to be very important for patients with angina. Regular exercise helps keep arteries elastic, even in older people, which in turn ensures blood flow and normal blood pressure.

Sedentary people have a 35% greater risk of developing hypertension (high blood pressure) than athletes do. It should be noted that high-intensity exercise may not lower blood pressure as effectively as moderate-intensity exercise.         

Taking more exercise not only makes you look and feel better but it can also help to keep your heart healthy. Even a short burst of activity, like running around your lounge, climbing the stairs or a half hour walk using your MBTs can get your heart pumping and help boost circulation and with regular exercise you’ll start to notice the difference within a matter of weeks. In addition to helping to control blood pressure, blood sugar levels and cholesterol, exercise can also help you lose weight.         

Your heart is a muscle and like other muscles, it will get bigger and stronger through physical activity - particularly cardiovascular exercise, like walking, which works the heart and lungs. The stronger and bigger your heart is, the slower it has to work to pump blood efficiently around your body. This places less stress on your heart, leading to a healthier and more relaxed cardiovascular system.