Influence of regular exercise on age-related changes in arterial elasticity: mechanistic insights from wall compositions in rat aorta

Can J Appl Physiol. 2003 Apr;28(2):204-12. doi: 10.1139/h03-016.


Arterial stiffness increases with age in healthy sedentary adults. We previously reported that the age-related increases in arterial stiffness are absent or attenuated in regularly exercising adults. However, the mechanism underlying this training effect is unknown. One possibility is that regular exercise minimizes age-related changes in the arterial wall composition of elastin and collagen. To gain insight into this issue, we studied four groups of rats (N = 23): young (42-46 wks) and old (80-84 wks), sedentary and exercise-trained. The exercise group swam 1 hr.d-1, 6 d.wk-1 for 17-21 weeks. There was no significant difference in the incremental elastic modulus between young sedentary and exercise-trained rats. The elastic moduli of the old exercise-trained rats were 31% lower than in the old sedentary controls. As such, the magnitude of age-related increase in the elastic modulus was smaller in the exercise-trained (110%) vs. the sedentary group (151%) (p < 0.05). In both activity groups, elastin content was lower and collagen content was higher in old vs. young rats (p < 0.05). However, there were no significant differences between the two activity groups. These results are not consistent with the hypothesis that regular physical exercise minimizes age-related compositional changes in the arterial wall and attenuates the age-related increase in arterial stiffness.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Aorta / physiology*
  • Elasticity
  • Male
  • Physical Conditioning, Animal*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Inbred WKY
  • Tensile Strength