How Our Bodies Work 2: Spine, Cardiovascular and Respiratory Systems

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Our bodies have many amazing systems. The ones most directly affected by regular exercise are the skeletal, muscular, cardiovascular, respiratory, nervous, and endocrine systems. Last time we took a look at the skeletal and muscular systems, and now we’ll learn more about the spine, and the cardiovascular and respiratory systems.


The spine

Spinal Anatomy
There are normally 33 vertebrae: 7 cervical, 12 thoracic, 5 lumbar, and 9 fused vertebrae, 5 in the sacrum and 4 in the coccyx or tailbone.

Your backbone is made up of a series of bones, known as  vertebrae, which are connected by disks and ligaments  that provide cushioning and mobility. Your spine has many crucial functions—it:

  • supports your body, keeping it upright
  • enables upper body movement
  • acts as a shock absorber
  • protects the spinal cord.

The backbone’s four main sections give it a slight “S” curve  when observed from the side. The cervical area curves  slightly inward, the thoracic spine slightly outward, the  lumbar slightly in, and the sacrum and coccyx slightly  out.

It’s essential to keep these natural curves in place not  just when exercising but all the time, since they enable  the backbone to absorb and cope with the many stresses  placed on it as we move. Retaining these curves is usually meant with having a good posture.

The cardiovascular system

Cardiovascular System
Your heart beats on average 100,000 times a day and every single minute pumps about 9 pints (5 liters) of blood through your body.

The term “cardiovascular” refers to your heart and  all your blood vessels. Your heart beats on average an  amazing 100,000 times a day. Every single minute, it pumps all your body’s blood—about 9 pints (5 liters)— through a system of arteries, veins, and capillaries in  order to provide your organs, muscles, and nerves with  the oxygen they need to function and to remove  carbon dioxide and different waste products.

Therefore it’s no wonder then that it’s so crucial to keep your heart fit and strong. The walls of your heart are made of a special cardiac muscle, found nowhere else in the body.

The cardiac muscle is extremely powerful and enables your heart to  act as a vital double pump, contracting and relaxing  alternately to squeeze oxygen-rich blood into  your arteries and around your body, while at the same  time pumping used blood to the lungs for more oxygen.

The heart has its  own pacemaker, which produces electrical impulses that spread through the heart, stimulating contraction.  Like all muscles, your heart needs to be regularly  challenged to function at its best. And this can be only achieved through physical exercise—or, specifically, cardio or  aerobic exercise.

The respiratory system

Respiratory System
Deep breathing is a must if you are to stay healthy and active throughout life.

The principle functions of your respiratory system are to:

  • supply your blood with the body’s essential fuel, oxygen
  • remove the waste product carbon dioxide from your blood.

So how exactly does our respiratory system work?

It all starts when you breathe in. The oxygen that you inhale through your  nose travels down to your lungs, where it diffuses into  your bloodstream. From there, it’s transported to your  heart, where it’s pumped around your body to be used as  fuel.

Meanwhile, carbon dioxide, which is created as a  by-product of your body’s activity, is carried by your  blood to your heart, where it’s pumped into your lungs  and exhaled through your mouth.

For this reason, full, deep breathing is a must if you are to stay healthy and active throughout life. Good  breathing also enhances performance in  most types of exercise because it provides your muscles  with increased oxygen, which they need to work harder.

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Written by Jenny Nickelson

Jenny Nickelson has been a sports enthusiast since childhood. Because of her deep love to water, she started training swimming in early years. Today she swears on variety and does it all: from swimming, running and cycling to fitness, skiing, dancing and mountaineering.


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