How Exercise Works

What Happens When You Exercise

So imagine that you start running. Here's what happens:

  • The muscle cells burn off the ATP they have floating around in about 3 seconds.
  • The phosphagen system kicks in and supplies energy for 8 to 10 seconds. This would be the major energy system used by the muscles of a 100-meter sprinter or weight lifter, where rapid acceleration, short-duration exercise occurs.
  • If exercise continues longer, then the glycogen-lactic acid system kicks in. This would be true for short-distance exercises such as a 200- or 400-meter dash or 100-meter swim.
  • Finally, if exercise continues, then aerobic respiration takes over. This would occur in endurance events such as an 800-meter dash, marathon run, rowing, cross-country skiing and distance skating.

When you start to look closely at how the human body works, it is truly an amazing machine!