You know exercise is good for your heart, but how, exactly, does your heart benefit?
Exercise strengthens muscles by stressing them, and the heart—a muscle itself—is no exception. A strong heart is better able to pump oxygen-rich blood to every area of the body.
More broadly, physical activity benefits the entire circulatory system by widening capillaries and preventing plaque buildup in the arteries, making it easier to more efficiently deliver oxygen-rich blood to tissues and ferry more cellular waste away.
Reasons to Get Moving
What other benefits does exercise provide to the heart? Here’s what can happen when you make physical activity part of your life:
• Blood pressure improves. Regular exercise can lower systolic (top number) and diastolic (bottom number) blood pressure five to seven points in as few as three weeks, according to the American College of Sports Medicine.
• Cholesterol levels balance out. Physical activity may cause levels of good cholesterol in your blood to increase, according to an article published in American Family Physician by the American Academy of Family Physicians. This increase could help offset bad cholesterol and triglycerides in your blood that contribute to heart disease.
• Resting heart rate slows. Most people have a resting heart rate of 60 to 100 beats per minute, but active adults’ can be in the 40s, according to the American Heart Association. Lower is better, as it means the heart is beating easily and efficiently.
How Much Exercise Is Enough?
Most health organizations agree that people receive heart health benefits if they engage in at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity most days of the week, according to the journal Circulation.