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Why is there increased blood flow during exercise?

When you exercise the blood vessels that supply blood to your muscles and take blood away from your muscle dilate to allow for a massive increase in blood flow to your muscles. As you exercise your body needs large amounts of oxygen, glucose, amino acids, and a molecule called ATP to allow the muscles to contract and do work. As the muscles consume nutrients and perform work waste materials like lactic acid are produced and need to be carried away from the muscles, so they can be metabolized by the liver and eliminated or recycled.  It is because of this need to bring in large amounts of materials and remove waste products that blood flow increases dramatically during exercise. 

Blood flow is greater when you exercise because the blood vessels in your muscles dilate. Imagine water flowing through a fire hose compared to a garden hose. Adenosine triphosphate, or ATP, is the way your body uses biochemicals to store and use energy. When ATP gets used up in working muscles, the muscles themselves produce metabolic byproducts (for example, adenosine, hydrogen ions and carbon dioxide). As these byproducts leave the muscle cells, they cause small, thin-walled blood vessels (capillaries) within the muscle to expand or dilate, which is called vasodilation. The dilated capillaries allow increased blood flow, which delivers more oxygenated blood to the working muscle.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.