This review was presented at The Journal of Physiology Symposium on Physiological regulation linked with physical activity and health, which took place at the 36th International Congress of Physiological Sciences in Kyoto, Japan on 31 July 2009. It was commissioned by the Editorial Board and reflects the views of the authors.
Habitual exercise and vascular ageing
Article first published online: 30 NOV 2009
© 2009 The Authors. Journal compilation © 2009 The Physiological Society
The Journal of Physiology
Volume 587, Issue 23, pages 5541–5549, December 2009
How to Cite
Seals, D. R., Walker, A. E., Pierce, G. L. and Lesniewski, L. A. (2009), Habitual exercise and vascular ageing. The Journal of Physiology, 587: 5541–5549. doi: 10.1113/jphysiol.2009.178822
- Issue published online: 30 NOV 2009
- Article first published online: 30 NOV 2009
- (Received 20 July 2009; accepted after revision 24 August 2009; first published online 1 September 2009)
Age is the major risk factor for cardiovascular diseases (CVD) and this is attributable in part to stiffening of large elastic arteries and development of vascular endothelial dysfunction (e.g. impaired endothelium-dependent dilatation, EDD). In contrast, regular aerobic exercise is associated with reduced risk of CVD. Endurance exercise-trained middle-aged/older adults demonstrate lower large elastic artery stiffness and greater EDD than their sedentary peers. With daily brisk walking, previously sedentary middle-aged/older adults show reduced stiffness and improved EDD. The mechanisms underlying the effects of regular aerobic exercise on large elastic artery stiffness with ageing are largely unknown, but are likely to include changes to the composition of the arterial wall. Enhanced EDD in older adults who exercise is mediated by increased nitric oxide (NO) bioavailability associated with reduced oxidative stress. Arteries from old rodents that perform regular aerobic exercise demonstrate increased expression and activity of endothelial NO synthase, reduced oxidative damage associated with reduced expression and activity of the oxidant enzyme NADPH oxidase, and increased activity of the antioxidant enzyme superoxide dismutase. Aerobic exercise also may protect arteries with ageing by increasing resistance to the effects of other CVD risk factors like LDL-cholesterol. Habitual aerobic exercise is an effective strategy to combat arterial ageing.