Did you know that February is Heart Health Month? In the spirit of the month and Valentine’s Day this Tuesday, our blog post this week will talk about how exercise affects our heart.
Let’s start with a little review of what our heart actually looks like!
The heart functions to circulate the blood in our body. Blood enters the heart through the Right Atrium (as highlighted above), flows into the Right Ventricle then to the lungs to pick up oxygen. From there, it flows to the Left Atrium, the Left Ventricle and then pumped out of the heart and circulated to the rest of body. Blood carries the oxygen and nutrients that our body needs to perform optimally.
So how can exercise affect our heart, and thus blood flow?
Both aerobic exercise (Such as running, swimming, or prolonged circuit-training) as well as anaerobic (like sprinting, short circuit-training or weightlifting) affect the heart in a positive manner. Training in both will make your heart stronger, and thus it does not need to work as hard to get blood through the body, reducing our resting heart rate and blood pressure.
Specifically, aerobic training can increase the size of the chambers of the heart such as the left ventricle. This allows for more blood to flow into the chamber and be pumped into the body. More blood circulating in one heart beat means that less heart beats are needed overall, decreasing heart rate. Both anaerobic and aerobic exercise to a degree increase the thickness of the chamber walls, which are all muscle. A stronger push from the ventricle walls allows more of the blood in the ventricles to be ejected from the heart and into the arteries, improving circulation and once again lowering heart rate. Any kind of exercise decreases the risk of fatty build-up in the arteries, decreasing blood pressure and the risk of heart problems.
This is not to say that doing pure strength training will make the transition to running a walk in the park since your heart is already so trained, or vice versa. It is necessary to practice the movement for the body to become more efficient in performing it. Weight training will make picking up your couch easier to perform, so your heart rate and blood pressure need not rise as much. Regular cardiovascular exercise will make taking your dog for a walk a much easier task for your heart, preventing it from needing to increase heart rate and blood pressure to keep up with the energy demands of your body.
So help your heart grow three sizes this Valentine’s Day and come in for a workout! Your heart will thank you.