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.
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
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
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.