Mechanism of Health Benefits from Cardio Workouts

So what is the latest science on this? I remember reading in the 80s that cardio made your heart strong. So it got me wondering, does it really have any long term positive affect on the heart?

Here are 6 possible benefits of cardio:

  1. Weight loss (which moves you away from all the markers of metabolic syndrome)
  2. Increased glucose tolerance
  3. Increase in lactic acid dehydrogenase, or a specific form (its been 15 years since I took a class)
  4. Increased PERIPHERAL and PULMONARY capilarization
  5. Increased mitochondrial concentration in red muscle fibers and therefore oxidative capacity
  6. Perhaps increase in peroxidases and free radical scavengers.

So does it actually affect the HEART?

And what about a chemical stress test. Does a chemical stress test have exercise benefits? What about stimulants like caffeine? They stress the heart but can they have a positive benefit? You hear about the green tea 3 times a day in Japan.

Green tea is consumed for its rich supply of antioxidants, not its caffeine content. It has much less caffeine than say, coffee for example.
And of course cardio effects the heart. Whenever the heart is forced to work somewhere close to maximum it is being trained, like any other muscle pushed to its capacities. A study of any professional endurance athlete is all the evidence you need for the fact.

I’m not too sure about chemical stress tests but i think they’re only employed when exercise is not an option, and therefore are not beneficial in the long term in my opinion, but then again, I could be wrong.


To the best of my knowledge (current master’s student in Ex. Phys, so take that how you will) there are beneficial adaptations of the heart, but a good portion of any training effect is also a product of adaptation of the rest of the cardiovascular system (i.e. increased “flexiness” of arteries, decreased resting BP).

The actual adaptations of the heart (that I can think of off the top of my head at 220am are as follows, in no particular order):
-Increased stroke volume, which means the heart can pump more blood with each beat, which is a result of increased strength of the myocardium
-Increased contractility, which means the heart can expand to better accomodate blood returning from the veins, which actually is a big factor in achieving maximal stroke volume
…and that’s all I got for now. There’s more to it than that, though. Hope that helped.