Endurance Training For A Healthy Heart

Endurance Training For A Healthy Heart

Whether it be jogging, cycling or walking - we should all be doing some form of exercise. But to really benefit your heart, your cardiovascular system needs to get going regularly - and this is particularly important for women over 40.

Table of contents

Depending on the job, most of us fall into the category of "frequent sitters" or alternatively "frequent standers". And even those of us who walk around usually feel our cardiovascular system more from the stress than from dynamic, consistent endurance exercises. Yet this is precisely what we need to protect us from many of today's diseases. 

Endurance sport ensures that:

  • Blood lipid levels fall and HDL cholesterol levels (the "good" cholesterol) rise
  • The risk of hardening the arteries (arteriosclerosis) decreases
  • The release of the stress hormones - adrenaline and cortisol - is reduced
  • Blood flows better
  • The tendency for varicose veins and thrombosis is reduced
  • The immune system is strengthened

However, our heart particularly benefits from regular endurance training. And this is particularly important for women after the menopause!

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Oestrogen and heart health

Oestrogen is not only responsible for the menstrual cycle and "femininity", but also has a protective effect on our arterial walls: it helps to keep the vessels flexible, the blood flowing smoothly and thus prevents the build-up of plaque in the coronary arteries. Oestrogen therefore optimally supports our heart to do a good job - similar to endurance training!

Premenopausal women have a lower risk of heart attack than men due to this natural hormonal advantage. However, if oestrogen levels fall during the menopause, this protection disappears. Women then have at least the same risk as men of suffering a heart attack or stroke.

And that's not all: studies have shown that other risk factors for heart disease, such as blood pressure, LDL cholesterol and triglyceride levels, increase during the menopause in tandem with the drop in oestrogen.

It is therefore high time to pay special attention to the heart now at the very latest - and to optimise the cardiovascular system as much as possible.

How does the cardiovascular system work?

The heartbeat: finally something we don't have to worry about. It happens all by itself. The heart is the "engine" of our body. With its constant pumping action, it is responsible for transporting our blood to the various tissues and organs and supplying them with oxygen.

So far, so good. But how does this actually happen? How does our "engine" work and how can we influence it?

Large and small circulatory systems

Our "engine" operates in two circulatory systems: the small circulatory system only includes the heart, lungs and embedded blood vessels. It is responsible for re-oxygenating depleted, oxygen-deprived blood. To do this, the blood flows into the lungs, where the carbon dioxide contained in the blood is exchanged with oxygen.

The oxygen-rich blood then flows in the large blood circulation via arteries into the capillaries - hair-thin vessels that supply organs and tissue with oxygen.

In this way, every corner of the body, no matter how remote, receives fresh oxygen - our "life energy". The deoxygenated blood returns to the heart via a similar vascular system - the veins. Venous valves prevent the blood from flowing back and thus work in perfect harmony with the suction effect of the heart and the pumping effect of the muscles.

And this is where endurance sport comes into play!

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How endurance training helps the heart

When the body is under strain - as it is when jogging - the heartbeat and breathing rate increase. This supplies the organism with sufficient oxygen, as it naturally consumes more of it during exertion. This doesn't always feel good in the short term, especially when we are out of practice.

However, if you go jogging regularly over a longer period of time, the cardiovascular system adapts and the oxygen exchange in the lungs (small circulation) is more effective:

  • Lung volume: the alveolar air sacs become larger and create more exchange surface for oxygen. Your lungs then transport a larger amount of oxygen to the heart with every breath.
  • Stroke volume: training also increases the heart volume. Ultimately, the heart is just a muscle that grows through training. If it is larger and stronger, it can pump larger amounts of oxygen-rich blood into the body with fewer beats.
  • Higher oxygen saturation: it is the red blood cells that transport the oxygen in the blood. Their number can increase through regular training and thus improve oxygen transportation.


Endurance training not only improves performance under stress and fitness. Even at rest, the pulse - also known as the heart rate - is lower. This pays off in the long term, as can be seen in an example calculation:

Experts assume that a beginner runner can succeed in lowering their resting heart rate by 10 beats per minute within just a few weeks if they train regularly (3 x 30 minutes per week). Let's assume we start with a resting heart rate of 80:

  • 80 beats per minute - and with a few calculation steps in between, 42,854,400 beats per year

If we reduce the resting heart rate by 10 beats, that's:

  • 70 beats per minute and correspondingly 37,497,600 beats per year

It becomes clear: we save 5,356,800 heartbeats per year - or a complete year of heart work every 7 years. A more powerful heart therefore means a significantly lower cardiac workload.


If the heart rate increases during endurance sports, blood pressure rises briefly. Women in particular who suffer from high blood pressure are therefore sometimes afraid of overloading themselves. And rightfully so in extreme cases. Anyone suffering from high blood pressure should not push themselves to the maximum without medical supervision.

However, the combination of (1) an increase in heart rate and (2) an increase in blood pressure during exercise, causes mechanical forces to act on the vascular endothelium, which then secretes messenger substances and enzymes. These strengthen the veins from the inside so that fewer deposits adhere,which in turn reduces the risk of arteriosclerosis!

You prevent blockages in the blood vessels and thus reduce your risk of a heart attack or stroke. In addition, wide, elastic blood vessels are extremely beneficial for healthy blood pressure.

Endurance training: it doesn't have to be jogging!

All you need to do to start training is a brisk walk, stroll or Nordic walk. It's mainly about "tickling" the cardiovascular system again. Especially when the natural oestrogen protection is lost during the menopause.

Another positive side effect of running is that you feel fitter, more energised and more alert. This is because the brain is also better supplied with oxygen. Great if you suffer from a lack of energy or brain fog! Let's get moving!

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Differential effects of endurance, interval, and resistance training on telomerase activity and telomere length in a randomized, controlled study

European Heart Journal, 2019, Pages 34–46

Ausdauersport und Herz. Dietger Mathias.

Fit und gesund von 1 bis Hundert. Ernährung und Bewegung - Aktuelles medizinisches Wissen zur Gesundheit. Springer, 2018

Die Auswirkungen von Ausdauertraining auf das Herz-Kreislauf-System. Iris Egarter

Medizinische Universität Graz

Sport als Prävention: Fakten und Zahlen für das individuelle Maß an Bewegung. Hollstein, Tim.

Dtsch Arztebl 2019; 116(35-36)

Women Face an Increased Risk of Heart Disease With Age – Running Can Help

Study of Women’s Health Across the Nation (SWAN), Feb 12, 2020