The human heart has an amazing ability to adapt to exercise. But competitive sitting won't get the job done.
"It's the same as when you work out your biceps", says Dr. Michael H. Crawford, chief of cardiology at the University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center.
"Exercise causes verything to get bigger; the size of the chambers, the thickness of the walls. The heart is basically a muscle, and it will increase in size when it's confronted with having to work more."
Cardiovascular conditioning can develop within weeks and vanish just as fast. In an exercise study of endurance athletes the size of their heart increased by 23% in the first week of training and the volume of blood the heart pumped increased by 33%.
But the conditioning can disappear just as quickly. Six cross-country runners who had been training for at least 3 months, took 3 weeks off. By the end of the 3rd week of inactivity their average left ventricular mass was down 38%, and their average stroke volume was down 23%.
Does the experience of athletes relate to those of us who exercise for heart benefits? You bet it does!
A long-term study by the Harvard School of Public Health concluded that the harder a person works during their exercise routine, the healthier he will be and the longer he will live.
According to cardiologist Marianne J. Legato, M.D when someone exercises regularly over a long period of time, the heart often develops extra vessels to make room for the increased blood flow that exercise requires.
During a heart attack, these vessels can compensate for a blocked artery and prevent death. So, what is the best way to supercharge your cardiovascular system?
Many people have come to believe that the more exercise you do the better you will be. Not so. The best exercise routine is interval training.
You should start out slowly to warm up and then do short spurts of "huffing and puffing", lasting two minutes or less and then slow down until you can breath normally. Repeat this process four or five times during a 20-minute period. And that's it, you're done!
We believe in using a variety of exercise equipment, but our favorite is the rowing machine.
Covert Bailey, author of numerous books on exercise, tells us that, "Twelve minutes on the rowing machine is equivalent to 40 minutes walking."
Minneapolis cardiologist, Dr. Barry J. Maron who has studied the hearts of various athletes, says that rowing is like running and lifting weights at the same time.
Maron says, "Rowing involves probably the most complete mixture of strength and endurance training in sports, producing some of the most exceptional hearts ever studied." So "row, row row" for good health!
There is a saying that, "Exercise doesn't make us live longer. It only seems like it." The truth is that huffing and puffing exercise, in the right amount and intensity, just might cure your heart disease, and keep us from developing "love handles".
We wish for you vital heart health for a long, long time!
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