Heart-healthy benefits of exercise start in the brain

Does exercise benefit your heart?

What kind of question is that you might be thinking?

Doesn’t everyone know by now that we need enough physical activity to protect our heart from cardiovascular disease, and that sitting too much makes you a sitting duck for a heart attack?

But how does that work, exactly?

Most of us assume that our heart muscle gets stronger with exercise, just like any other muscle, and our blood pressure, weight and cholesterol get lower.

But there’s another step that happens before that.

It turns out that what happens in your brain kicks off the heart-protective effects of exercise…

Peak Cardio Platinum

Research shows that by age 70, Nitric Oxide production declines by up to 75 percent! But supporting healthy N-O levels isn’t as easy as taking a nitric oxide pill. The body needs nutrients to produce N-O on its own — and that’s why… MORE⟩⟩


Exercise de-stresses your brain

A team of doctors at Massachusetts General Hospital set out to investigate the mechanisms behind both the psychological and cardiovascular benefits of physical activity.

To start with, Dr. Ahmed Tawakol of the Hospital’s Cardiovascular Imaging Research Center and his colleagues analyzed the medical records of 50,359 participants from the Massachusetts General Brigham Biobank. They’d all completed a survey asking about their levels and frequency of physical activity.

From this large group, 774 participants were selected to undergo brain imaging tests and measurements of stress-related brain activity.

Over a ten-year follow-up period, members of this group who met physical activity recommendations had a 23% lower risk of developing cardiovascular disease.

These same people also tended to have lower stress-related brain activity. In particular, they showed functional gains in the prefrontal cortex, a part of the brain known to restrain the brain’s stress centers.

This reduction in stress-related brain signaling partially accounted for physical activity’s cardiovascular benefit.

In other words, exercise dampened the stress centers in the brain, and this in turn removed some strain on the heart, thus offering a protective effect.

Depressed? Exercise is an extra advantage for your heart

Something else remarkable was noted: people with depression benefited even more from this exercise-brain-heart connection than those who were not depressed.

“Physical activity was roughly twice as effective in lowering cardiovascular disease risk among those with depression. Effects on the brain’s stress-related activity may explain this novel observation,” says Dr. Tawakol.

In simple terms, we already know that even a little physical activity can alleviate depression. Now we know why.

When exercise builds up the prefrontal cortex, stress is reduced, and depression alleviated.

This is great news considering the feedback loop with depression and heart disease.

Peak Maximum Endurance

At middle age, you start feeling changes in your body you may chalk up to aging: energy levels hit rock bottom, weight soars, muscles become soft, skin becomes wrinkled and slack and desire tanks. You may feel past your prime — but science says that’s wrong! MORE⟩⟩


What this means for you

If we’re wise, we will treat all of this as more than just an interesting piece of scientific news.

We’ll take it as a reminder that exercise in some form is not optional, not if we want to continue functioning independently and enjoying life well into old age.

While this research proves the point, I hope this isn’t new information for you.

The prolonged sitting that many of us do (myself included) skyrockets our risk of dementia, diabetes, and blood clots in the leg that can be potentially life-threatening.

It doesn’t take a lot of time to prevent these effects. Personally, I’ve taken to getting out of my chair every 20 minutes and staying up for at least 20 minutes.

I do household chores, walk up and down the many stairs in my home, or, if it’s a nice day, take a short neighborhood walk. In most cases, I return to my desk with renewed focus.

If you sit a lot at work or consider yourself a “couch potato,” you’d be well advised to come up with a similar plan and stick to it. Being proactive now will give you a happier, healthier life later.

Editor’s note: There are numerous safe and natural ways to decrease your risk of blood clots including the 25-cent vitamin, the nutrient that acts as a natural blood thinner and the powerful herb that helps clear plaque. To discover these and more, click here for Hushed Up Natural Heart Cures and Common Misconceptions of Popular Heart Treatments!


Physical activity reduces stress-related brain activity to lower cardiovascular disease risk — Eureka Alert

Physical Activity Reduces Stress-Related Brain Activity to Lower Cardiovascular Disease Risk — Massachusetts General Hospital

Joyce Hollman

By Joyce Hollman

Joyce Hollman is a writer based in Kennebunk, Maine, specializing in the medical/healthcare and natural/alternative health space. Health challenges of her own led Joyce on a journey to discover ways to feel better through organic living, utilizing natural health strategies. Now, practicing yoga and meditation, and working towards living in a chemical-free home, her experiences make her the perfect conduit to help others live and feel better naturally.