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Exercise is a crucial step for maintaining circulatory health.
Darrin Klimek/Digital Vision/Getty Images
Regular exercise has a dramatic effect on your circulation and cardiovascular health. Even moderate levels of exercise can increase blood flow and reduce your risk for circulatory conditions like atherosclerosis, the buildup of plaque inside your arteries. Exercise promotes good circulation by strengthening the muscles in your heart, lowering your resting heart rate, and preventing the buildup of plaque in your arteries.
The Cardiovascular System and You
Your muscles break down your food energy in the presence of oxygen in a process called cellular respiration. Cellular respiration allows for all movement in your body, from functions like breathing to exercises like jumping jacks. Your cardiovascular system provides the oxygen for cellular respiration through the bloodstream, and removes carbon dioxide and toxins produced by cellular respiration. A healthy cardiovascular system performs this job effortlessly, but a lack of exercise can lead to poor circulation and a reduced capacity for exercise from lack of oxygenated blood.
Inaction Has Consequences
Poor circulation is often caused by a constriction of the arteries leading to and away from the valves of your heart. This constriction is caused by a buildup of plaque known as atherosclerosis; as the plaque hardens and narrows the artery, blood pressure goes up and circulation goes down, making it more difficult to transport oxygen around the body. When blood cannot reach the heart muscles themselves, a condition known as coronary heart disease can develop, the number one killer of adults in the United States. The precise cause of atherosclerosis is not known, but a lack of exercise is one of five leading causes of life-threatening cardiovascular conditions in the United States.
Fight Back Against Plaque
You don't need to train for a marathon to improve circulation. When it comes to the health of your cardiovascular system, the Harvard School of Public Health reports that even moderate exercise, like 150 minutes per week, has a dramatic benefit on cardiovascular health. Reducing your buildup of plaque from atherosclerosis can keep your heart pumping blood normally throughout your circulatory system. Your heart will also strengthen like any other muscle with exercise, lowering your resting heart rate and your risk for heart attack and stroke.
Your circulatory system is not the only thing in your body that benefits from regular exercise. According to the American Heart Association, individuals who exercise regularly also reduce their low-density lipoprotein levels or "bad" cholesterol. Your blood pressure and body weight will also decrease with exercise, dramatically increasing your quality of life and risk of serious chronic conditions.