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What Is the Relationship between Exercise and Homeostasis?

By Amy Rodriguez
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Exercise and homeostasis must work in harmony within the human body to maintain proper functioning of the pulmonary, heart, and muscle systems. Lifting weights or jogging down the street are two common forms of exercise that produce a stress, or strain, on the body. Muscles must react rapidly to the movements of the exercise, while blood flow and oxygen levels must be redirected to compensate for the extra energy use.

Homeostasis refers to the human body's balance between all vital life systems. A jogger must breathe more briskly than a person at rest. Lack of oxygen to any vital body system will result in cellular damage, or injury. The extra oxygen entering the jogger's lungs, through the pulmonary system, helps return equilibrium to the body. As a result of the increased oxygen intake, the muscles produce more adenosine triphosphate (ATP), needed for continued muscular movement.

The main muscle affected by exercise and homeostasis is the heart. The heart must beat faster during exercise, moving oxygen-rich blood out to the skeletal muscles for motion. As the exercise slows, the heart responds to the change in homeostasis by reducing the pumping action. The body will continue to alter its functions, to maintain homeostasis, until the person is at rest again.

Blood flow supply routes also change within the body during exercise. Exercise-related strain placed across the muscular system requires more blood than normal to enhance oxygen supply to the muscle cells. In response to the exercise and homeostasis requirements, the body reroutes blood normally directed toward digestion or nervous system activities to the skeletal muscles. Removing the strain on the muscles causes the blood flow to return to its normal routes for achieving a resting homeostasis.

Body temperature is another important consideration in relation to exercise and homeostasis. Excessive body temperatures can be reached during strenuous and long term exercising. Homeostasis occurs by allowing the body to sweat. The evaporation of the sweat from the skin cools the body, resulting in an overall temperature balance to allow continued exercise without overheating.

The relationship between exercise and homeostasis can fail if overexertion or a preexisting condition is involved. Long distance runners or asthma sufferers can run out of breath, causing the heart and muscles to have oxygen deficiencies. The runner or asthma sufferer must slow down, or stop completely, to regain bodily homeostasis.

Post-exercise stretching and relaxation techniques — such as yoga — help return oxygen to the depleted blood supply. Strenuous exercise still affects the body immediately afterward by requiring deep breaths to be drawn. Studies have shown calories are still burned by the muscles after exercise until the person returns to a resting homeostasis.

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Discussion Comments

By browncoat — On Nov 26, 2013

Whenever you get a pain in your stomach when you run, it's probably because the blood is being re-routed from there to the rest of the body to deal with the extra need for oxygen.

I've found it's much better if I don't run after I eat, but I have a friend who gets the pain no matter when he runs.

By umbra21 — On Nov 25, 2013

@Ana1234 - Honestly it can be a bit of a pain as well, because your body becomes better at maintaining homeostasis in other ways and they aren't all pleasant.

If I even go into a gym I basically start sweating now and it used to take a while before I would break a sweat. A trainer explained that it is my body learning that any exercise means a long workout and it's better to get started on the cool-down.

It's quite gross if all you want to do is go for a short run in the morning and you're sweating like you've just run an ultra-marathon through the desert.

But I guess it's nice to have another sign that I'm getting fitter.

By Ana1234 — On Nov 24, 2013

Your ability to maintain homeostasis during exercise will get better and better as you become more and more fit. There are some long distance runners who essentially can't make their hearts beat at a certain speed without really pushing themselves, because normal exercise won't do anything to change them.

Most people will never get to that point, of course, but being able to return to a normal heart beat quickly after exercise is definitely one of the signs of someone who is fit and healthy.

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