We all know it's healthy to exercise, but it also helps prevent and manage heart disease.

A new series in the Journal of American Cardiology explores the field of sports cardiology, and gives a unique insight into the inner workings of elite athletes’ hearts.

The series, coordinated by Professor Jason Kovacic, Executive Director of the Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute, found exercise not only changes your physical appearance; it also impacts and changes virtually every aspect of our cardiovascular system.

“It’s vital that cardiologists and the wider population understand just how important exercise is to our heart health and how much we should be doing if we want to live long and healthy lives," Prof Kovacic said.

“Most Australians know that exercise is good for our health, but the challenge is making people get off the couch and into their exercise gear. We hope that by spelling out the incredible benefits exercise can have on our hearts; it might encourage more Australians to start exercising.

“Even a small increase in aerobic fitness can reduce the chance of developing heart disease and dying prematurely.”

In the first part of the focus seminar series, the authors describe just how long-term aerobic exercise changes the heart.

  • The heart’s mass and size increase allowing it to pump much more blood.
  • This has a flow-on effect on the health of the body’s main arteries.
  • It can also lead to changes in skeletal muscles that can trigger an increase in mitochondrial networks – the body’s main powerhouse.
  • Exercise can also improve glucose control and increase insulin sensitivity.
  • Blood pressure levels can be reduced by up to 7 mm Hg.
  • Exercise can also increase the levels of good cholesterol in the body.

Despite the considerable health benefits of exercise, only one in four (24.5%) Australian adults meet physical activity guidelines which recommend 150-300 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity, or 75-150 minutes of vigorous-intensity physical activity, or an equivalent combination of both, per week.

Photo: Emma Simpson/Unsplash 

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