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Exercise: It’s the Little Things

Posted by wmagnus On February - 8 - 2010

Exercise has long been known to reduce blood pressure, improve serum lipids, improve endurance, improve glucose tolerance and provide a host of other benefits. Remarkably, it’s what isn’t known about exercise that’s made the biggest thinkers in physiology pull their chins. It seems that for all that exercise does that is clearly documented and understood, it doesn’t account for the magnitude of cardiovascular risk reduction that exercise really provides.In 2008, Daniel Green and his colleagues around the world took note of findings of a 27,000 patient survey done the year before. It seemed that researchers discovered that 40% of the risk reduction associated with regular exercise couldn’t be explained by traditional risk factors alone. Green posited that it could be that effects on blood vessel adaptability could be at play though those hadn’t been documented in humans before. Thus began an extensive survey of the literature.

It turns out that nitric oxide (NO) plays an important roll in the ability of blood vessels to respond to stress. German researchers it turns out directly measured that NO responsiveness of arteries improves with exercise training in as little as 4 weeks.

Outside the blood vessel proper, exercise improves vascular tone by the development of neurons that control the function of arteries. More endurance training results in better vascular tone and improved blood vessel response in humans and animals both.

It’s not all tiny and subtle. Exercise results in bigger arteries which improves blood flow. Also,  just having a low resting heart rate and a rate that doesn’t constantly bounce around reduces cardiovascular risk. That’s a benefit of exercise training too.

All this metabolic change makes a huge difference. No matter how many medications we may use to lower cholesterol, control blood pressure, improve blood sugar and the like we won’t get to this kind of fine metabolic improvement. The only answer it seems is to accept the inevitable, and exercise.

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