The benefits of exercise on the heart are well recognized, and clinical studies have demonstrated that exercise is an intervention that can improve cardiac function in heart failure patients. This has led to significant research into understanding the key mechanisms responsible for exercise-induced cardiac protection. Here, we summarize molecular mechanisms that regulate exercise-induced cardiac myocyte growth and proliferation. We discuss in detail the effects of exercise on other cardiac cells, organelles, and systems that have received less or little attention and require further investigation. This includes cardiac excitation and contraction, mitochondrial adaptations, cellular stress responses to promote survival (heat shock response, ubiquitin-proteasome system, autophagy-lysosomal system, endoplasmic reticulum unfolded protein response, DNA damage response), extracellular matrix, inflammatory response, and organ-to-organ crosstalk. We summarize therapeutic strategies targeting known regulators of exercise-induced protection and the challenges translating findings from bench to bedside. We conclude that technological advancements that allow for in-depth profiling of the genome, transcriptome, proteome and metabolome, combined with animal and human studies, provide new opportunities for comprehensively defining the signaling and regulatory aspects of cell/organelle functions that underpin the protective properties of exercise. This is likely to lead to the identification of novel biomarkers and therapeutic targets for heart disease.