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Eur J Cardiovasc Prev Rehabil. 2006 Oct;13(5):805-11.

Habitual aerobic exercise is associated with smaller femoral artery intima-media thickness with age in healthy men and women.

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Department of Integrative Physiology, University of Colorado at Boulder, Boulder, Colorado, USA.



Femoral artery intima-media thickness (IMT), an independent predictor of atherosclerotic disease risk, increases with age in sedentary adults. It is not known whether regular aerobic exercise modulates femoral IMT with ageing.


Study 1: Femoral IMT was measured in 173 sedentary, moderately active, and endurance-trained young (20-39 years), middle-aged (40-59 years) and older (60-79 years) men. IMT increased with age in all activity groups (P<0.001). However, IMT was 20-27% smaller in age-matched, endurance-trained compared with sedentary men (P<0.001), and the age-associated increase in IMT was 33% smaller in endurance-trained compared with sedentary men (+0.32 versus +0.45 mm). There was a trend for the IMT to be smaller in moderately active compared with sedentary older men, and the age-associated increase in IMT was 37% smaller in moderately active than sedentary men (+0.28 mm). Study 2: Among 74 premenopausal and postmenopausal sedentary or endurance-trained women, IMT was higher (P<0.001) in postmenopausal compared with premenopausal women regardless of activity status. However, IMT was 15% smaller in endurance-trained compared with sedentary postmenopausal women (P<0.001), and the premenopausal to postmenopausal difference in IMT was approximately 45% smaller in endurance-trained compared with sedentary women (+0.13 versus +0.23 mm).


Femoral IMT increases with age even in habitually exercising adults. However, the age-associated increase and absolute level of IMT are smaller in middle-aged and older adults who perform regular aerobic-endurance exercise, and may contribute to their lower incidence of atherosclerotic disease.

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