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Wed, July 24, 2013
The Blood Benefit: Exercise Helps It Pump and So Much More
Blood: the thick, viscous fluid that flows through the many pathways of arteries and veins that makes up our cardiovascular system. Blood is the nectar that feeds all of our being. Without it, we are nothing. 
What Does Blood Actually Do? 
Well, blood does a lot of different things. It supplies oxygen to all of our organs. It carries nutrients to our cells, but yet it also transports metabolic wastes. 
Blood is carried through our pulmonary and systemic systems, our veins and our arteries, to do specific duties. The systems have a large effect on how well our blood flows as well. 
Our cardiovascular system is made up of three things: blood (fluid), the heart (pump) and vasculature (tubing). 
The heart has four chambers, two atria and two ventricles. The atria receive blood from parts of the body; the left receives oxygenated blood from the lungs and the right atrium receives deoxygenated blood from the body. The left ventricle sends out the oxygenated blood to the rest of the body. Whereas the right ventricle sends the deoxygenated blood to the lungs to then get re-oxygenated. 
Whenever I picture blood flowing in and out of the heart I think of a little kid with a sippy cup after running outside for two hours. He's so thirsty and he receives his sippy cup from his guardian- that's the blood that's been oxygenated. The juice that he drinks from the cup is like the heart pushing out blood to the body. When the kid gets done he shoves his cup for more, because it's now empty and he needs more NOW! That's just like blood coming back after it's been spread throughout the body: it needs more oxygen to take it to the lungs!
The vasculature of the heart is pretty intense. The tubing consists of arteries and veins, both of which have numerous smaller branches. They are very intricate and do an amazing job at keeping our blood healthy and clean.
Arteries carry blood AWAY from the heart; they send out the good stuff that has oxygen to all of the muscles, organs, and the rest of the body. There are elastic arteries that do conducting, these are the largest arteries in the body and can withstand large pressure changes. The arteries can propel blood forward by what is called elastic rebound or recoil. 
Veins, on the other side, carry blood TO the heart. Blood pressure is much lower in veins, as well, as there is much less resistance. Veins are larger in diameter than in arteries. Therefore, the pressure is lower. 
This can create a problem as veins bring blood to the heart. We NEED that blood to get to the pump ASAP so it can give it oxygen and send it back on its way. 
Thank goodness our body has this natural way of fending for itself. It has valves, body movements, and a musculovenous pump. Whew. 
Valves help our blood go back to the heart. Every so often in a vein a valve will shut due to backflow so blood cannot go back down the vein; it's only being pushed back up.
I think of the CPR masks that are out on the market, and have been for a long time. This mask has a one-way valve for you to blow air into an unconscious person's mouth. If the person becomes conscious and starts to vomit, nothing will come through the mask. SCORE! 
Veins are the same way if all is working well. Your valves stop the backflow. But if something is wrong with your veins (read: varicose veins) pooling of blood can occur. 
Body movement of almost any kind also helps blood get back to the heart. You could wave your hand, open a door, wiggle your toes, etc., and that movement moves blood along a little bit more. 
We also have what is called the muscular pump. The muscular pump is exactly what it sounds like: our muscles pump blood back to the heart. When you contract your muscles, such as when exercising, your skeletal muscle presses against veins, pumping blood where it needs to go. 
Exercise can plays a very deep role in helping blood flow through our system.  When we exercise we breathe harder, our heart beats faster, our muscles fatigue, and blood is pumping. Seeing that our heart is a muscle and that exercise strengthens muscles, regular exercise makes your heart stronger. When your heart is strong and powerful, it pumps more blood but doesn't need to work as hard as it would if your heart was weak. Therefore, blood pressure is lowered. 
Like I said, when we exercise, we usually will be breathing harder. When we breathe hard, we can raise blood pressure slightly. This training effect is meant to be when heavy weight is lifted or you are under stress. Coming away from this stress can actually increase your ability to control blood pressure. High blood pressure creates a host of issues. 
Blood is filtered and oxygenated through the lungs. Exercise increases your breathing; it requires you to breathe deeper rather than to take short, choppy breaths. The greater oxygen that we can inhale and give to our blood, the better for our muscles. Our muscles require oxygen in order for them to pump, contract, and relax.
Regular exercise can do wonders for the blood and its supporting organs. The more blood you circulate, the more nutrients and oxygen it can deliver, and the more waste it can pick up. 
When exercise is part of your lifestyle you also have less chance to suffer from cardiovascular diseases, such as high blood pressure, hypertension, atherosclerosis, the thickening of the artery wall due to fatty substances, and many more. Keeping healthy and active can play a crucial role in keeping your body safe, inside and out.

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