Can You Get Cardiovascular Benefits From a Single Exercise Session?

It’s no secret that exercise does good things for your heart, but you might think you have to do weeks of cardio sessions to get the cardio-protective benefits of a good workout. Would you believe you can get some benefits as early as the first time you exercise? While it may take weeks for your heart to start pumping more efficiently as result of training, some of the effects of working out are immediate.

 

Cardiovascular Exercise: Are the Benefits Faster Than We Think?

 

In a study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, 20 adult males ate a fatty meal. After the meal, researchers measured their triglyceride levels and looked at the reactivity of their blood vessels. As might be expected, they had evidence of endothelial dysfunction after eating the fatty meal. Endothelial dysfunction is a condition where blood vessels don’t expand as much as they should in response to blood flow. In addition, their triglyceride levels were elevated after the high-fat meal.

 

Then they asked the volunteers to walk on a treadmill for 90 minutes and eat another high-fat meal the next day. When they measured their triglyceride levels and blood vessel function after the second high-fat meal, they made an interesting discovery. Triglyceride levels were 25% lower and blood vessel function was significantly better despite the fatty meal. The reason? Researchers believe the single exercise session they did the day before the meal offset some of the effects of the high-fat meal.

 

Does a Single Exercise Session Offer Some Protection Against Heart Attack?

 

It may take weeks to get the full benefits of cardiovascular training, but your heart may get some protection against heart attack from a single exercise session. According to research carried out at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, as little as one session of cardiovascular exercise increases the synthesis of stress proteins, also known as heat shock proteins. These proteins increase in number during periods when the body is stressed due to exposure to heat, infection, decreased oxygen, calorie restriction and exercise. Their purpose is to help prevent and clean up tissue damage.

 

Researchers at the University of North Carolina found that synthesis of stress proteins rises after a single exercise session and offers some protection against heart-related damage. To get this cardio-protective effect, you would have to work out at a level that’s challenging enough to stimulate the release of stress proteins, at a moderate intensity or greater. Walking or doing other exercise where you’re not breathing rapidly wouldn’t be challenging enough to boost the levels of these heart-protective proteins.

 

You Have to Keep Training to Maintain the Benefits

 

One exercise session may be beneficial when it comes to heart health, but you have to keep working out to maintain the benefits. The stress proteins only hang around for a few days, so you need to keep working out to get your body to produce more. If you keep training, over weeks your body makes other exercise adaptations that help the heart pump more efficiently. At the same time, exercise lowers blood pressure and LDL cholesterol over time and raises HDL cholesterol, the good form of cholesterol that lowers the risk of heart disease. More good reasons to keep lacing up your exercise shoes.

 

 

References:
Exercise Physiology: Theory and Application to Fitness and Performance. Seventh Edition. Powers and Howley. 2009.
Sports Medicine. 2009: 39(11): 923-35.
Public Health. 2007 September; 121(9): 643–655.
J Am Coll Cardiol, 2004; 44:2375-2382, doi:10.1016/j.jacc.2004.09.035

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