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Exercise and heart health

One training session at the gym can cause clinically relevant protection against cardiovascular disease.

The results of a new study led by Professor Dick Thijssen have shown that between one and three training sessions per week can provide strong protection for the heart. According to Thijssen even a single workout can provide cardioprotection for 2 to 3 hours. Stronger and longer-lasting benefits can even emerge 24 hours after the exercise session has finished.

“This is a key review summarising how a single bout of exercise can have a clear impact in keeping the heart adequately supplied with blood, ” said Thijssen. “ One bout of exercise can cause clinically relevant protection against cardiovascular disease. This means that benefits of exercise are present, even in the absence of changes in risk factors. These are both important and powerful messages for all who want to take up exercise.”

It is a widely accepted fact in medical circles that exercise protects the heart over time but it is less known that it can also do so within hours, and that a single workout is enough to yield clinically significant benefits.

This phenomenon, also known as ischemic or cardiovascular preconditioning, is based on the concept that the heart is protected against a blockade of blood flow (such as a myocardial infarction) when it is repeatedly exposed to short periods of blood flow blockade, prior to the event. This essentially ‘prepares’ the heart against damage. And it seems various types of exercise have the similar effect of protecting the heart.

“Cardioprotection through exercise preconditioning is a facile, inexpensive, and potent therapy that deserves greater recognition and further resources to establish the optimal dose. Nonetheless, as is so often the case with the benefits of exercise, its prescription follows the cardinal rule: use it or lose it.”

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