Physical activity is dependent upon the cardiovascular system adequately delivering blood to meet the metabolic and thermoregulatory demands of exercise. Animals who regularly exercise therefore require a well-adapted heart to support this delivery. The purpose of this review is to examine cardiac structure, and the potential for exercise-induced cardiac remodeling, in animals that regularly engage in strenuous activity. Specifically, we draw upon the literature that has studied the “athlete’s heart” in humans, horses, and dogs, to enable the reader to compare and contrast cardiac remodeling in these three athletic species. The available literature provides compelling evidence for exercise-induced cardiac remodeling in all three species. However, more work is required to understand the influence of species/breed specific genetics and exercise-related hemodynamics, in order to fully understand the impact of exercise on cardiac structure.
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