A new review of existing studies published in the journal JAMA Cardiology, examines the evidence behind the idea that an acute bout of exercise is able to offer immediate protection for the heart against cardiovascular disease through a mechanism called “cardiovascular preconditioning.” It is a widely accepted fact that exercise protects the heart over time. However, it is less known that it can also do so within hours, and that a single workout episode is enough to yield clinically significant benefits. This under-appreciated advantage of exercise may be due to a phenomenon called ischemic, or cardiovascular, preconditioning.
The review found that between one and three workout sessions per week can provide “strong” protection for the heart. Moreover, one single workout episode can provide cardioprotection for 2–3 hours, and even stronger and longer-lasting benefits emerge 24 hours after the exercise session has finished. “Importantly,” the authors write, “these associations are present on the first episode of exercise, with subsequent exercise sessions reactivating protective pathways and leading to ongoing beneficial effects.”