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Exercise's Effects on the Human Body

By Nick Ng

Regular exercise offers many positive benefits that will keep you living independently and reduce your risks of getting certain diseases and injuries. Although gyms and fitness boot camps are places where people typically exercise, you can strengthen your body by taking long hikes or walks, dancing a few hours of salsa or playing your favorite sport. You'd be having so much fun that you'd forget the benefits that exercise gives you.

Healthier and Happier Heart

All forms of exercise improve the heart rate, blood flow and general heart health. Average, healthy adults have a heart rate of 60 to 80 beats per minute at rest. Moderate-intensity or high-intensity exercise will strengthen your heart, allowing it to pump more blood into your body, which can reduce the resting heart rate to 28 to 40 beats per minute, as in most elite endurance athletes. As your heart gets stronger, the stroke volume also increases, which is the amount of blood ejected per beat from the left ventricle of the heart. When the left ventricle is filled up with more blood, it is stretched further, which causes an elastic recoil to pump more blood out. Like skeletal muscles, the heart's size also increases as it adapts to exercise.

Maximize Air Intake

Like your heart, your lungs and the rest of the pulmonary system also adapt to exercise. As the exercise intensity increases, your lung capacity, which is your lung's ability to expand, also increases, allowing more air to flow in and out of it. This also increases your breathing rate, which speeds up the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide. The alveoli are tiny air sacs where gas exchange takes place between your blood and your lungs. As you adapt to high-intensity exercise, the number of alveoli also increases. This allows you to perform aerobic exercises longer without getting out of breath.

Gain Weight the Right Way

All forms of strength and power training will make your bones denser and your skeletal muscles larger. Weight-bearing exercises, such as fast walking, stair climbing, dancing and weight-training, cause your bones to constantly rebuild and adapt to make them stronger and resilient to fractures. Muscle growth, or hypertrophy, is a result from strength and power conditioning in which your muscle fibers increase in diameter. Eccentric training, which is the lengthening of muscle fibers under tension, elicits the greatest gains in muscle hypertrophy, according to exercise physiologist Len Kravitz. For example, after you lift a barbell during the arm curl, lower the weight at a rate of three to four seconds.

Torch More Fat

Your body continues to burn fat at an elevated rate even after you have stopped exercising. This condition is called excess post-exercise oxygen consumption, during which your body increases its metabolism to return itself to its resting state. EPOC can last from 15 minutes to 48 hours, depending on exercise intensity and duration, says Kravitz. A study performed at Appalachian State University in Boone, North Carolina, showed that 45 minutes of high-intensity cycling can elevate the EPOC effect for 14 hours in men. This can help you burn fat more efficiently throughout the day without having to spend more than an hour at the gym.

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