Exercise Protects Your Heart Via Nitric Oxide

Doctors know that exercise:

  1. reduces your risk of having a heart attack, and…
  2. protects your heart from injury if a heart attack should occur

And in this new study, researchers have identified exactly how exercise helps your heart produce and store nitric oxide in order to protect itself from injury.

Nitric Oxide 101

Nitric oxide is a gas generated in your body that has the ability to turn on chemical pathways that relax/dilate blood vessels, increasing blood flow and activating survival pathways.

The Study

Researchers found that “nitric oxide generated during physical exercise is actually stored in the bloodstream and heart in the form of nitrite and nitrosothiols. These more stable nitric oxide intermediates appear to be critical for the cardioprotection against a subsequent heart attack.”

They found that 4 weeks of aerobic exercise (hamster wheel) boosted levels of an enzyme (eNOS) that produces nitric oxide. These increased levels of eNOS resulted in higher levels of nitrite and nitrosothiols in the blood as well as the heart tissue.

And these levels stayed at that high level for a week after exercise was stopped. After four weeks, the levels returned back to normal and the cardio-protective effect was lost.


This research is pretty cool for two reasons.

  1. It gives those stubborn non-exercisers a scientific/medical reason to get up off the couch and get sweaty, and
  2. A drug/supplement that can mimic this exercise effect would be a powerful tool in helping to protect the heart after a heart attack has already happened.




Douglas Robb

Doug Robb is a personal trainer, a fitness blogger and author, a competitive athlete, and a student of nutrition and exercise science. He's also the co-founder of the Hive Health Media. Since 2008, Doug has expanded his impact by bringing his real-world experience online via the health & fitness blog – Health Habits.

3 thoughts on “Exercise Protects Your Heart Via Nitric Oxide

  • May 11, 2011 at 5:17 am

    I love exercising butI’ve stopped for almost six months now. The article on nitric oxide,exercise and the heart has woken me from my comfort zone. Thank you for such information. I’ll resume today.

  • May 7, 2011 at 9:56 am

    Yes there is no alternative to regular physical (preferably aerobic) exercise to remain fit and healthy.
    Thanks for informing how exercise help to remain healthy.

  • May 5, 2011 at 8:14 pm

    I agree this is just another reason to get off the couch and exercise. The benefits of exercise are endless and why wouldn’t you want to do something that can extend your life!


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