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Cardiovascular Adaptations to Exercise

Muscle tissue adapts to the demands placed upon it - on this page you'll learn what types of training produce the most significant adaptations in the muscles of the heart and blood vessels

Personal Training CV Adaptations imageAerobic fitness, anaerobic fitness, and muscular endurance training place larger demands on the heart than any other type of training.  Over time these demands result in adaptations to the cardiovascular system such as:


Physiological Adaptation

Heart Size

  • The muscular walls of the heart increase in thickness, particularly in the left ventricle, providing a more powerful contraction.
  • The left ventricles internal dimensions increase as a result of increased ventricular filling.

Stroke Volume (SV)


  • The increase in size of the heart enables the left ventricle to stretch more and thus fill with more blood.  The increase in muscle wall thickness also increases the contractility resulting in increased stroke volume at rest and during exercise, increasing blood supply to the body.

Resting Heart Rate (RHR)

  • As cardiac output at rest remains constant the increase in stroke volume is accompanied by a corresponding decrease in heart rate.

Cardiac Output (Q)


  • Cardiac output increases significantly during maximal exercise effort due to the increase in SV.  This results in greater oxygen supply, waste removal and hence improved endurance performance.

Blood Pressure (BP)

  • People with blood pressure in the ‘normal’ ranges experience little change in BP at rest or with exercise; however hypertensive people find that their BP’s reduce towards normal as they do more exercise.  This is due to a reduction in total peripheral resistance within the artery, and improved condition and elasticity of the smooth muscle in the blood vessel walls.

Other training types such as hypertrophy training can also result in these adaptations occurring in the cardiovascular system however the degree of adaptation will be less significant than the adaptation caused by aerobic fitness, anaerobic fitness and muscular endurance training.

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