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J Appl Physiol (1985). 2008 Oct;105(4):1323-32. doi: 10.1152/japplphysiol.90553.2008. Epub 2008 Jun 26.

Habitual exercise and arterial aging.

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Department of Integrative Physiology, University of Colorado, 354 UCB, Boulder, CO 80309, USA.


Aging affects the function and structure of arteries and increases the risk of cardiovascular diseases (CVD). In healthy sedentary adults, aging is associated with increased stiffness (reduced compliance) of large elastic arteries; impaired vascular endothelial function, including reductions in endothelium-dependent dilation (EDD), release of tissue-type plasminogen activator (fibrinolytic capacity) and endothelial progenitor cell number and function; increased intima-media wall thickness (IMT); and peripheral vasoconstriction (decreased basal leg blood flow). Habitual physical activity/increased aerobic exercise capacity is associated with reduced risk of CVD. Compared with their sedentary peers, adults who regularly perform aerobic exercise demonstrate smaller or no age-associated increases in large elastic artery stiffness, reductions in vascular endothelial function, and increases in femoral artery IMT. A short-term, moderate-intensity aerobic exercise intervention (brisk daily walking for 12 wk) improves carotid artery compliance and can restore vascular endothelial function in previously sedentary middle-aged and older adults. Reduced oxidative stress may be an important mechanism contributing to these effects. Habitual resistance exercise increases (high-intensity) or does not affect (moderate-intensity) large elastic artery stiffness, and prevents/restores the age-associated reduction in basal leg blood flow independent of changes in leg fat-free mass. Habitual exercise favorably modulates several expressions of arterial aging, thus preserving vascular function and possibly reducing the risk of CVD.

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