What are the benefits of exercise on the cardiovascular system?

Updated March 23, 2017

Along with maintaining healthy bones, improving psychological health and reducing the risk of certain cancers, exercise provides multiple benefits to the cardiovascular system. Consisting of the heart, blood vessels and blood, the cardiovascular system manages the flow of blood, oxygen and nutrients to and from the heart. Exercising regularly improves the overall functioning of the cardiovascular system, making it strong and more efficient.

Lowers blood pressure

Regular exercise strengthens the heart and makes it more efficient. As the heart becomes stronger, it's able to pump more blood to the body with less effort required. As a result, the force on the arteries significantly decreases, resulting in lowered blood pressure. According to the Mayo Clinic, “becoming more active can lower your systolic blood pressure – the top number in a blood pressure reading – by an average of 5 to 10mm of mercury (mm HG)”. A lower blood pressure significantly reduces your risk of heart disease, heart failure, stroke and aneurysm.

Less cholesterol

The University of New Mexico says “cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance found in all animal products.” Cholesterol is essential for proper body functioning. It's used to build cell membranes, help with the digestion of fats and produce sex hormones. However, an excess of cholesterol in the body increases the risk for heart disease. Excess cholesterol is deposited along the walls of the arteries, making it difficult for blood to move to and from the heart. Fortunately, regular exercise increases the production of specific enzymes, which metabolize that excess cholesterol. As the cholesterol metabolism progresses, the artery walls become clear, opening the artery for sufficient blood flow.

Increased circulation

During exercise, the heart pumps blood much more vigorously to the body. This increased blood flow is necessary to ensure that the organs and muscles get the oxygen and nutrients they need to continue working during this elevated state of activity. Although a person only exercises for a brief period during the day, the benefits continue long after finishing. As the increased amount of blood is pumped through the body, new capillaries open in the muscles and organs to receive this blood. These capillaries are small tunnels through which blood, oxygen and nutrients are exchanged. After exercising, these capillaries remain open, allowing for a more efficient blood flow to the body.

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