What Actually Happens To Your Heart When You Exercise Every Day

February is heart health awareness month, and a great time to give some attention to the organ that works so hard for you, pumping blood through your veins so your entire body can get the oxygen and nutrients it needs to thrive — it's the center of your circulatory system, also known as your incredible heart (via Michigan Medicine). Exercise has long been proven to be a beneficial step toward taking care of your heart like it takes care of you, but how much exercise is enough, and what happens to your heart with daily, deliberate physical activity? 

The heart, like any other muscle, gets stronger as you work on it. Each time you exercise, you are forcing the muscles to help circulate blood through the body, taking some pressure off the heart (ischemic preconditioning), which helps it become stronger over time (per New England Baptist Hospital). Daily exercise also helps the heart's arteries to dilate easier, and assists in conditioning a healthier resting heart rate (via Harvard Health Publishing). Furthermore, a promising study co-authored by Harvard University and Massachusetts General Hospital found that after 90 days of vigorous endurance exercise, the heart structure changed, with the left and right ventricles expanding, and the heart muscle relaxing more optimally between beats (via The Harvard Gazette).  

Why more exercise is better than less

A recent study out of the University of Oxford consisting of over 90,000 participants reports that the most active people reap the most reward for their cardiovascular system. Breaking it down by the numbers, the study showed that people who were most active had a reduced risk of heart-related disease by as much as 57 percent, those who exercised at a moderate intensity level had a reduction of up to 59 percent, and those with the highest intensity of physical activity had a reduction in risk of up to 63 percent (via Healthline).

The study's co-leader, Rema Ramakrishnan, a biostatistician and epidemiologist, shares (via Reuters), "This debunks the myth that there is a peak beyond which you should not do more exercise," and she goes on to say, "There is no limit to what you can do in terms of physical activity (to improve heart health)." Based on the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, 2nd edition, the American Heart Association suggests a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week, but recommend moving more than that and with higher intensity for the best outcome.