You have a goal – maybe dropping a few pounds or sizes, maybe training for that first 5K or ½ marathon, or maybe it’s just to simply be healthier – so, you get your exercise on and after maybe 4 days of serious commitment, you wonder if it’s really worth all this effort because you’re not seeing any changes. Whether you’ve experienced this or not, knowing how your body reacts to exercise is valuable knowledge to understand how every gasping breath you take while exercising is making a dent towards your goal.
An immediate effect of exercise is your heart rate increases – it actually increases before you even begin to exercise because of the anticipatory response, which releases adrenaline to speed up your heart in preparation of the exertion. Once you start exercising, your heart rate will rise in proportion to your expended exertion.
Along with your heart rate increasing, this is increasing your blood flow throughout your body and blood flow to muscles. Muscles only require about 15 to 20 percent of the total amount of blood circulating through your body at rest, but during exercise, they demand much more at up to 80 percent. Because of this, blood flow is shunted away from your kidney, liver and digestive organs and redirected to the skeletal muscles for their oxygen needs and the skin to keep your body cool.
Part of your body’s cooling system results in the sweat dripping off of you, which is also a good thing. Sweating is good for your skin (as long as you keep your skin clean) and helps keep your immune system up.
In the first 4 weeks of training, you most likely won’t see significant transformations in your physique, although you will feel more confident and better about yourself because your body transforms neurologically first. Mental and emotional effects and benefits will be apparent, as your body increases production of endorphins that lift your mood, help relieve stress, and improve sleep quality. Also, since exercise increases blood flow to your brain, it enhances your ability to think, plan and multitask.
Physically, you will notice that your cardio and muscular endurance and muscular strength greatly increased from your original untrained state. This is because of the consistent conditioning of each exercise session where your body goes through the immediate effects of exercise. Each time you are increasing your heart rate through exercise and keeping it up for the prolonged period of time, your body is conditioning itself to react more efficiently.
During the second month of training, you will continue to make improvements in your cardiovascular endurance as well as muscular strength and endurance gains. You will need to continue to challenge your body to avoid plateau so you can keep progressing. This is the period that you will also begin to notice your body composition begin to improve, as long as you are also eating nutritionally to correlate with your goals.
Congratulations, you have made it past the “intro” period of exercising and are coming into a trained state – given you’ve been consistent with at least four days of moderate to intense cardio and strength training exercise each week.
In a “trained state,” you will have a decreased resting heart rate and increased stroke volume because the rigors of regular exercise require so much work from the cardiovascular system and your heart is now trained to pump a larger quantity of blood with each beat instead of beating rapidly. Your circulation is also improved in response to the need of more oxygen to the muscles during exercise through increasing the number of capillaries and widening the existing ones, and blood pressure should decrease.
You will also continue to see your body composition continually improve, as long as you persist with a regular exercise routine and keep challenging your body to avoid plateau. Keep on keeping on!
Charge UP Health | Fitness
Rena Roark, CHC, CPFT, is a Certified Health Coach and Certified Personal Fitness Trainer and owner of Charge Up Health and Fitness, LLC. She works with individuals and group clients as a health and fitness coach to offer support and guidance for their health goals through a holistic look at their lives, helping to find balance between exercise, diet, career, and relationships. Providing accountability and motivation, she can help reduce stress, increase energy and self-confidence, and ultimately help individuals work towards the best version of them.
Compiled using information from the following sources:
Livestrong, “How Exercise Affects the Boday.” http://www.livestrong.com/article/344568-how-exercise-affects-the-body/
Fitness-Health-Wellness.com, “Short and Long Term Effects of Exercise.” http://fitness-health-wellness.com/short-long-term-effects-exercise-cardiovascular-sys/
Please be aware that this article is not a diagnosis, prescription or recommendation for any individual. Before you start a new exercise or food program, you should always talk it over with your doctor. He or she may have specific recommendations — or warnings — depending on your health and the other medicines you take.