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Keywords:

  • blood flow;
  • endothelium;
  • vascular resistance

For exercise to be sustained, it is essential that adequate blood flow be provided to skeletal muscle. The local vascular control mechanisms involved in regulating muscle perfusion during exercise include metabolic control, endothelium-mediated control, propagated responses, myogenic control, and the muscle pump. The primary determinant of muscle perfusion during sustained exercise is the metabolic rate of the muscle. Metabolites from contracting muscle diffuse to resistance arterioles and act directly to induce vasodilation, or indirectly to inhibit noradrenaline release from sympathetic nerve endings and oppose α-adrenoreceptor-mediated vasoconstriction. The vascular endothelium also releases vasodilator substances (e.g., prostacyclin and nitric oxide) that are prominent in establishing basal vascular tone, but these substances do not appear to contribute to the exercise hyperemia in muscle. Endothelial and smooth muscle cells may also be involved in propagating vasodilator signals along arterioles to parent and daughter vessels. Myogenic autoregulation does not appear to be involved in the exercise hyperemia in muscle, but the rhythmic propulsion of blood from skeletal muscle veins facilitates venous return to the heart and muscle perfusion. It appears that the primary determinants of sustained exercise hyperemia in skeletal muscle are metabolic vasodilation and increased vascular conductance via the muscle pump. Additionally, sympathetic neural control is important in regulating muscle blood flow during exercise.