February 3, 2023

Use it or lose it: Make your heart go on and on and on

The heart is a muscle that get’s oxygen and nutrient rich blood to the body. It clears carbon-di-oxide out of the body and moves waste to organs that can deal with it. 

It is akin to a pump/motor complete with intricate plumbing and electrical. 

A healthy heart:

* Ensures blood reaches all the cells in the heart. The heart is beating all day and night. It needs oxygen and nutrients. The plumbing (arteries and veins) needs to be free of obstructions to get blood to every part.  

* The heart needs to be able to get as much blood out in every squeeze (beat) and do this repeatedly. The pump’s capacity is directly a function of all the consistent demands on it in the form of activity. A heart dosed with regular activity will take fewer beats in a minute to provide more oxygen to the body than an untrained heart. 

* A less efficient pump means the body and brain are in constant competition to get enough oxygen. Even the mildest exertion can send the heart racing to supply more oxygen. The body and brain are supplied with enough oxygen and nutrients by a consistently-trained heart.    

* If there is a sudden demand for a lot of oxygen, like running up a hill or flight of stairs, the heart should be able to get the job done and quickly bounce back to its resting rate. It should do this while still giving the brain and the rest of the body enough oxygen to stay aware of one’s surroundings. There is a theoretical maximum number of times a heart can beat in a minute. This decreases with age. 


* Activity trumps inactivity when it comes to helping the heart remain/improve efficiency at pumping blood. The heart needs consistent doses of stimulus such as an hour of lifting weights, brisk walking, jump rope, rucking or light ‘hiking’. The activity can be spread out through the day or week. A heart that receives this stimulus consistently will likely be more efficient than a heart that does not.  

* Subject the heart to higher exertion for short bursts once or twice a week. Higher exertion means different things to different people. It would be useful to develop this capacity. Very small doses are needed to get this job done.  

* The heart has an easier time getting blood to every corner in a leaner body. Fat has terrible plumbing. Muscle and organs have terrific plumbing. Better body composition makes life easier for the heart.  

* The heart’s plumbing is compromised by eating poor quality fats and eating too much food (relative to your requirement that results in being overweight). This results in a heart that is less capable of providing the body with enough oxygen even during bouts of mild exertion. 

PS: Please do consult the rare medical professional who understands the importance of a variety of exercises for your overall heart health and quality of life before undertaking any exercise program especially if you have been inactive

About Adarsh

- I run a strength and conditioning facility in Chennai, India
- I work with my clients to make training and eating for better body composition a part of everyday life
- I coach online and in-person
- I design and manufacture strength training equipment for use in our strength training facility