Thursday, March 22, 2007

Why Aerobic Exercise Helps the Heart

A question that I frequently get from Googlers is WHY? I often recommend exercise for cardiovascular health because the evidence shows that aerobic exercise helps the heart, but when asked why I haven't been able to give a satisfactory answer. We have never really understood how this process works other than the secondary effects of lowering the blood pressure and weight.

Fortunately thanks to Dr. Richard Sloan of Columbia University I can offer more detail on this subject. A recent study by Dr. Sloan showed that aerobic exercise decreases inflammation. Inflammation is involved in the formation of the fatty build-ups in the arteries which lead to heart disease.

In this 12 week study, blood samples were analyzed from 46 healthy adults ages 20 to 45 years old before and after the subjects exercised at moderate or high intensity. The samples were then stimulated with a bacteria and then examined for tumor necrosis factor (TNF) which is an indicator of the inflammatory process. There was a significantly lower level of TNF in the blood samples of subjects who exercised.

It remains to be seen if the results can be replicated in a larger group of volunteers and if a lower TNF can be associated with a lower risk of heart disease in a long term study.

It is reported that 70 percent of Americans do not exercise regularly.


Anonymous said...

I keep reading that inflammation is involved in a multitude of other health problems, from asthma to lupus to arthritis, etc., etc. Does this research perhaps suggest that exercise can reduce inflammation in a wide range of other cases, including but not limited to auto-immune diseases?

Dr. Taraneh Razavi said...

This is an excellent question. It is always tricky in medicine to generalize the results of one study to multiple conditions as there are multiple variables involved for each disease. Exercise has also been shown to help osteoarthritis, but the intensity level and mechanism is unclear. Hopefully this will lead to more specific research with regard to other conditions as well.

逐日 said...

Does this research perhaps suggest that exercise can reduce inflammation in a wide range of other cases, including but not limited to auto-immune diseases?

Denis Péronnet said...

Dear colleague

it is difficult to predict a subit death during sport.
I was told that high blood pressure profile during effort even in subject with normal blood pressure at rest could a good predictive test.
would you mind explain us how even trained sportsmen could have acute ischemic accident

Mark said...

I have a cardiac condition, I was 19 when it was diagnosed. For quite some time after I was afraid of exercising and didn't have the motivation or self discipline.
I joined Run Walk for Life, which is aimed at sedentary people who would like to get fit. The structured, gradual programme allows you to get fit without risking injury or feeling exhausted, you can progress at your own pace.
Having people to interact with helps you stay motivated, you build relationships with people and they want to know why you missed a session. This all helps you to come back.
I would suggest that anyone with a chronic disease join a programme like this, to attain and maintain fitness.

Dr. Taraneh Razavi said...

Hi Mark

You are absolutely right. The structure and the interaction with others helps the motivation factor when it comes to exercise. Good for you that you took that step.

Freudian Slip said...

As always, I appreciate you pointing this out to us, it really does sum it up well.