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Am J Hypertens. 2017 Nov 1;30(11):1069-1072. doi: 10.1093/ajh/hpx145.

Effect of Exercise on Arterial Stiffness: Is There a Ceiling Effect?

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Department of Cardiology, University Hospital Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland.
Zurich Center for Integrative Human Physiology (ZIHP), Institute of Physiology, University of Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland.
Department of Nutrition, Exercise and Sports, University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Denmark.



Whether arterial stiffness (AS) can be improved by regular exercise in healthy individuals remains equivocal according to cross-sectional and longitudinal studies assessing arterial properties at discrete time points. The purpose of the present study was to pinpoint the time course of training-induced adaptations in central AS.


Aorta characteristic impedance (Zc) and carotid distensibility (CD) were determined with ultrasonography prior to (week 0) and across 8 weeks (weeks 2, 4, and 8) of supervised endurance training (ET) (3 × 60 minutes cycle ergometry sessions per week), in 9 previously untrained healthy normotensive adults (27 ± 4 years) with no history of cardiovascular disease. Exercise capacity was assessed by maximal oxygen consumption (VO2max) elicited by incremental ergometry.


VO2max increased throughout the ET intervention (+12% from week 0 to week 8, P < 0.001, P for linear trend <0.001). Systolic blood pressure rose with ET (+7% from week 0 to week 8, P = 0.019, P for linear trend <0.001). Aorta Zc augmented from week 0 to week 8 of ET in all individuals (+38%, P = 0.003, P for linear trend = 0.002). CD did not significantly differ among time points (P = 0.196) although a linear decreasing trend was detected (P = 0.016).


Central AS augments during a conventional ET intervention that effectively enhances aerobic exercise capacity in young individuals. This suggests that normal, healthy elastic arteries are not amendable to improvement unless impairment is present.


aorta characteristic impedance; blood pressure; ceiling effect; common carotid distensibility; hypertension

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