The efficient transport of oxygen through the red blood cells (RBCs) is primarily initiated by improved blood supply through the heart. Strenuous training, as observed in athletes, has resulted in changes in certain dimensions and functions of the heart which improves the function of the heart. The size of the heart cavity and thickness of the walls of the heart do increase, enabling the heart to pump blood in a more efficient way with less stress.1
Proper pumping of blood increases the blood flow in the peripheries of the body, such as the arms and legs, and causes improved functioning of the cells lining the blood vessels. Aerobic exercise has been found to have the beneficial effect of improving the function of these cells. This also means that there is an increased amount of blood sent to the lungs to release carbon dioxide and take in oxygen.2 For example, an athlete’s heart can pump up to six times more efficiently than the heart of a normal individual. Furthermore, in athletes, the rates and volumes of blood transferred through the heart are also improved by almost 50%.3
Help your body help you by doing aerobic exercises long term. Long-term aerobic exercise has been associated with an increased rate of RBC destruction, which, in turn, paves the way for increased production. An increased rate of RBC production may be advantageous because young blood cells are more efficient in transporting oxygen.4
- Naylor LH, et al. The Athlete’s Heart: A Contemporary Appraisal of the ‘Morganroth Hypothesis’. Sports Med. 2008; 38(1): 69–90.
- Umpierre D, Stein R. Hemodynamic and Vascular Effects of Resistance Training: Implications for Cardiovascular Disease. Arq Bras Cardiol. 2007; 89(4): 256–262.
- Linden RJ. The Size of the Heart. Cardioscience. 1994; 5(4): 225–233.
- Smith JA. Exercise, Training and Red Blood Cell Turnover. Sports Med. 1995; 19(1): 9–31.