With every bout of exercise, your body goes through transformations that you may never realize. While you may see and feel the benefits of engaging in regular aerobic exercise, the behind the scenes happenings are enough to make your head spin.
One very important player in the exercise cast is nitric oxide. Nitric oxide, also known by the chemical formula NO and is not to be confused with nitrous oxide (laughing gas), is produced by the body in varying amounts. The healthy endothelium, the innermost lining of the blood vessel walls that responds to nitric oxide by dilating and relaxing the vessels and lowering blood pressure, belongs to someone who exercises regularly and eats a low-fat plant-based diet. Also, the owner of these vessels does not smoke and practices stress management.
The endothelium is made up of unimaginably delicate cells. As much as one fatty meal can paralyze these cells for up to six hours. In that time, white blood cells and platelets become sticky, contributing plaque to the artery’s wall. As a result, blood vessel walls become unresponsive to an increased need for blood flow — in times of great stress such as strenuous exercise. Saturated fat, abundant in the standard American diet, is the biggest contributor to the loss of NO with monounsaturated fat a close second. Polyunsaturated fat has not been shown to have this negative effect on NO production.
With simple exercise — one single session and the accumulation of many over time — you improve the NO production and/or release in the body. Moderate exercise, such as walking, is effective to improve endothelial health. Short bursts of exercise, 10-20 minutes in duration, are sufficient to step up nitric oxide production, relax blood vessels, and lower blood pressure.
So, get up and move!