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Exercise can be a little tough when you start out. Take inspiration during your next workout by understanding the good it’s doing inside with Groupon’s whirlwind tour of the cardiovascular system.

The Cardiovascular System: How Exercise Makes it Hum

The average person’s heart beats 100,000 times a day, pushing 10 pints of blood all the way to the tips of the toes and back through 60,000 miles of vessels. Along this route, that blood stops to do a great many errands. The heart pumps blood to the lungs to collect oxygen before sending it through the rest of the body via arteries, arterioles, and capillaries. Once the tissues have absorbed the oxygen and nutrients they need, they send the waste-filled blood back to the heart through the veins to be reoxygenated and start the process again.

Every time our heart beats, what we really feel is the opening and closing of valves that push the blood through the heart’s four chambers and out to the body. When we exercise or get scared by a shrub that looked like a huge dog for a second, our brains instruct the heart to beat harder to supply the body with what it needs to fight or run. As exercise enhances the muscles over time, it also improves the function of the entire cardiovascular system.

This happens in several ways. Although exercise makes the heart work harder in the short term, this ultimately causes the body to adapt, easing the heart’s everyday tasks. In response to muscles’ demand for more oxygen and compliments, the body actually sprouts new capillaries, while prompting existing capillaries to open wider. These increased channels help lower blood pressure, since blood now encounters less resistance on its way to the extremities. The heart also becomes better at oxygenating the tissues—red blood cells increase their numbers during intense exercise.

With its insistent knocking in our ribcage, you may think the heart’s role in all this would be hard to ignore. But the earliest anatomists didn’t hear its call so clearly. Galen and Hippocrates believed the liver produced blood and spread it through the body in a centrifugal manner; meanwhile, the veins contained air, which the lungs pushed to the tissues. They also assumed this was an open-ended system, with the blood and air gradually dissipating when it reached the ends of veins and arteries—a view that would hold for another 1,500 years.

200 N Dartmouth Mall
Dartmouth,
MA
US

All four Total Fitness locations hold a variety of up-to-date fitness equipment and more than 25 energetically instructed classes. From cardio-kickboxing and spinning to Pilates and strength training, the fitness curriculum readies muscles and cardio systems to take on new challenges, such as running a marathon at the bottom of the ocean. Aspiring Zumbalinas can opt for Zumba classes to learn Latin dance moves; time-hindered humans can choose the power half-hour class, a core strengthening and high intensity cardio blast that burns calories like a flaming donut; and those in search of motivation can take boot camp, which comes complete with a military-esque instructor.

360 Faunce Corner Road
Dartmouth,
MA
US

As the name implies, all of the treatments at Inner Peace Yoga and Wellness are designed to inspire deep relaxation and serenity within the center's clients. To do so, owner Carrie Gippo has curated a list of soothing services that range from massage to yoga to reiki. She also provides Celluderm, a holistic treatment that stimulates lymphatic drainage to smooth unwanted curves.

946 American Legion Highway
Westport,
MA
US

At Heritage CrossFit, instructors push exercisers to new levels of fitness, leading them through functional exercises and high-intensity workouts. Exercises can be tailored to suit clients at all levels of fitness, and each session includes a warm-up and a cooldown to help avoid injury.

1148 Davol Street
Fall River,
MA
US

In 1990, Christina Rondeau fell in love. With martial arts, that is. After earning her black belt and competing in amateur karate and martial arts tournaments all over the United States and Europe, Rondeau decided to go pro. She travelled the globe as a member and coach on the USA WAKO kickboxing team, and went on to win the women's lightweight title. Rondeau continued to feed her athletic hunger with a switch to pro boxing and appeared in numerous print media and television shows, including The Maury Povich Show.

Having achieved fame and glory, Rondeau took on a new fight: she wanted to help women and children defend themselves while gaining indomitable confidence. She has authored books, created instructional DVDs, and opened Rondeau’s Kickboxing. The 24/7 gym garnered Rhode Island Monthly’s readers’ pick for Best Fitness Center in 2010, due in no small part to its empowering blend of fitness and martial-arts-based classes. Rondeau also promotes safety in her community by participating in events geared towards ending violence toward women and girls and teaching local schoolchildren how to defend themselves or pass a math quiz without using weapons. She also coordinated a box-a-thon to help line the shelves of a Rhode Island food bank.

315 Main Road
Tiverton,
RI
US

Equipment: Treadmills, ellipticals, free weights, circuits, boxing, and MMA equipment
Number of Staff: 5–10 people
Established: 2008
Registration required: No
Good for beginners: Yes
Parking: Parking lot

Q&A with Ben Pittsley, Owner/ Trainer

Exercise is challenging, and people frequently give up on their fitness routines. How do you keep clients motivated?
We are not the "cookie-cutter" gym. We have strength training equipment from Cybex, Life Fitness, Free Motion and Hammer Strength for traditional bodybuilding. We also have treadmills, ellipticals, bikes and rowing machines from True Fitness, Star Trac, and Life Fitness. There is a separate area dedicated to those that enjoy "functional training" which is designed to prepare members for obstacle course endurance races or their specific sport. We also have an area designed for combat sports such as Muay Thai Kickboxing, Boxing, Judo, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and Mixed Martial Arts. Our combat athletes range from beginners to professional fighters and have competed in Strikeforce, Bellator and the UFC. We truly have everything under one roof with an ego free environment that is open to everyone.

What's the most radical physical transformation you've seen a client make?
We were featured on the MTV reality show "I Used To Be Fat" where the contestant lost 75 pounds in four months with our Muay Thai kickboxing and strength and conditioning program. We've had numerous clients completely transform their bodies because we provide a team like atmosphere where everyone learns and helps each other reach their goals.

Has your business won any awards?
Our competition team has competed in numerous body building shows, obstacle course endurance races, kickboxing events, and mixed martial arts competitions at the amateur and professional level.

1 West St
Fall River,
MA
US