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The many ways exercise helps your heart
Physical activity triggers changes in your blood vessels, muscles, metabolism, and brain — all of which promote better heart health.
If you take a brisk walk, you’ll notice certain changes in your body right away. Your heart beats a little faster, your breathing rate increases, and you may feel your leg muscles working. But you might not appreciate the myriad other physiological changes happening inside your body when you exercise — some of which offer benefits similar to those from common medications.
Together, exercise-induced changes can prevent or improve all the major risk factors that contribute to heart disease, including high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, and unhealthy cholesterol levels. "Exercise can also improve mental health problems like depression and stress, which are common but often ignored contributors to cardiovascular problems," says cardiologist Dr. Aaron Baggish, a professor at the University of Lausanne in Switzerland and founder of the Cardiovascular Performance Program at Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital.
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About the Author
Julie Corliss, Executive Editor, Harvard Heart Letter
As a service to our readers, Harvard Health Publishing provides access to our library of archived content. Please note the date of last review or update on all articles.
No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.
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The numbers are shocking. Just two out of 10 American adults meet recommended levels of physical activity. Nearly three out of 10 Americans ages 6 and older admit they aren’t active at all, despite reams of research proving that exercise is a powerful preventive, and sometimes an antidote, for disability and illness. This Special Health Report, Workout Workbook: 10 complete workouts to help you get fit and healthy, features nine excellent workouts that will challenge your body and spirit in a variety of ways while warding off boredom.
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