• aerobic exercise;
  • hypertension;
  • vascular alterations;
  • oxidative stress

Background and Purpose

Regular physical activity is an effective non-pharmacological therapy for prevention and control of hypertension. We investigated the effects of aerobic exercise training in vascular remodelling and in the mechanical and functional alterations of coronary and small mesenteric arteries from spontaneously hypertensive rats (SHR).

Experimental Approach

Normotensive Wistar Kyoto (WKY), SHR and SHR trained on a treadmill for 12 weeks were used to evaluate vascular structural, mechanical and functional properties.

Key Results

Exercise did not affect lumen diameter, wall thickness and wall/lumen ratio but reduced vascular stiffness of coronary and mesenteric arteries from SHR. Exercise also reduced collagen deposition and normalized altered internal elastic lamina organization and expression of MMP-9 in mesenteric arteries from SHR. Exercise did not affect contractile responses of coronary arteries but improved the endothelium-dependent relaxation in SHR. In mesenteric arteries, training normalized the increased contractile responses induced by U46619 and by high concentrations of acetylcholine. In vessels from SHR, exercise normalized the effects of the NADPH oxidase inhibitor apocynin and the NOS inhibitor l-NAME in vasodilator or vasoconstrictor responses, normalized the increased O2 production and the reduced Cu/Zn superoxide dismutase expression and increased NO production.

Conclusions and Implications

Exercise training of SHR improves endothelial function and vascular stiffness in coronary and small mesenteric arteries. This might be related to the concomitant decrease of oxidative stress and increase of NO bioavailability. Such effects demonstrate the beneficial effects of exercise on the vascular system and could contribute to a reduction in blood pressure.