Exercise is supposed to be good for the heart – how does forcing a finite organ to work harder not just wear it out faster?


Exercise is supposed to be good for the heart – how does forcing a finite organ to work harder not just wear it out faster?

In: Biology

It’s a muscle, working it out in a controlled fashion makes it stronger and more efficient for all the time you aren’t intentionally working it harder.

You are effectively making it’s work 90% of the time easier by working it harder 10% of the time, instead of making it harder 100% of the time.

Take professional athletes for example, they often have a resting heart rate anywhere from 40-60 beats per minute at rest. The average resting heart rate for a moderately or less-active person is usually around 60-100 depending on multiple factors. Take sleep for example, assuming 8 hours that means a normal persons heart will beat maybe 28,800 times during sleep (assuming 60bpm though it’s probably lower because you’re sleeping), an athlete’s heart will beat only about 19,200 times during sleep (assuming 40bmp, though again probably less during sleep).

Factor that in to the amount of time you are at rest vs exercise over your lifetime, even with hours of exercise regularly the athletes heart is going to come out with fewer beats over time.

Your heart is a muscle so you can think of it similarly to weightlifting. The more you work the muscle the stronger it gets. In the case of your heart, a stronger heart is more efficient and doesn’t have to pump as much when at rest. Marathon runners for instance have a much lower resting heart rate because their hearts are more efficient. There are even some mega-marathon runners with heart rates as low as 40bpm as compared to the average of about 60bpm.

People have addressed the muscle part of it in other comments but there is also another reason. When you exercise, certain hormones are released that relax your blood vessels so that you can move blood more efficiently. Over time as you exercise more and more this makes your blood vessels more limber in general which causes you to have a healthy blood pressure in general. A normal blood pressure for longer periods of time puts less stress on the vessels which means you won’t pop an artery at 40.

Since the heart is just a complex muscle, it’s the same principle as with your biceps or leg muscles. When you work out, the seperate muscle fibers get damaged and have little rips or are just exhausted. When you take a break, your body panics and takes action to help you heal as quickly as possible. In the process, the fibers are made extra strong and sometimes new ones are created. It’s kind of a “One step back, two ahead” thing.

If you regularly lift 150 pounds, then lifting 5, 10, or even 50 pounds will be easy. Same concept.