image credit Scientific American

by Harmony Heffron

Want a stronger heart? Compete in a triathlon!

New discoveries have been made about exactly why being an athlete is so good for your heart.

New research shows that competing in triathlons causes athletes’ hearts to adapt to be stronger and healthier.  A study published by The Radiological Society of North America reports that men who competed in triathlons had stronger ventricles as well as a stronger left atria than their less active peers. The atria and ventricles are chambers in the heart that cause blood to be sent to the lungs to be oxygenated and then circulated in the rest of the body.  Triathletes also showed resting heart beats 17% lower than the other men in the study.

Researcher Dr. Michael M Lell said, ”The hearts of the triathletes in our study are stronger and able to manage the same workload with less effort.”

Exercise makes the heart grow. This happens when the heart adapts to the increased strain put on it by the extra volume of blood it pumps when exercising. This seems straight-forward, but the heart also grows under stressful conditions like high blood pressure. Researchers are trying to figure out the exact mechanics of heart growth under the stresses of exercise.

In a new study, researchers found that exercise triggers the gene C/EBPb. They discovered that when this gene is activated by exercise, it cause the heart’s muscle cells to divide and the heart to grow.

Anthony Rosenzweig of Harvard Medical school says, ”This is yet another reason to keep on exercising. In the longer term, by understanding the pathways that benefit the heart with exercise, we may be able to exploit those for patients who aren’t able to exercise. If there were a way to modulate the same pathway in a beneficial way, it would open up new avenues for treatment.”

All of this is great new for everyone, whether you’re a healthy athlete or have heart problems and are hoping for new treatments. So Spartans, run, swim, bike and compete in The Spartan Race and watch your heart become stronger and healthier!

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