Dose-response relationship of the cardiovascular adaptation to endurance training in healthy adults: how much training for what benefit?

J Appl Physiol (1985). 2003 Oct;95(4):1575-83. doi: 10.1152/japplphysiol.00482.2003. Epub 2003 Jun 27.


Occupational or recreational exercise reduces mortality from cardiovascular disease. The potential mechanisms for this reduction may include changes in blood pressure (BP) and autonomic control of the circulation. Therefore, we conducted the present long-term longitudinal study to quantify the dose-response relationship between the volume and intensity of exercise training, and regulation of heart rate (HR) and BP. We measured steady-state hemodynamics and analyzed dynamic cardiovascular regulation by spectral and transfer function analysis of cardiovascular variability in 11 initially sedentary subjects during 1 yr of progressive endurance training sufficient to allow them to complete a marathon. From this, we found that 1) moderate exercise training for 3 mo decreased BP, HR, and total peripheral resistance, and increased cardiovascular variability and arterial baroreflex sensitivity; 2) more prolonged and intense training did not augment these changes further; and 3) most of these changes returned to control values at 12 mo despite markedly increased training duration and intensity equivalent to that routinely observed in competitive athletes. In conclusion, increases in R-wave-R-wave interval and cardiovascular variability indexes are consistent with an augmentation of vagal modulation of HR after exercise training. It appears that moderate doses of training for 3 mo are sufficient to achieve this response as well as a modest hypotensive effect from decreasing vascular resistance. However, more prolonged and intense training does not necessarily lead to greater enhancement of circulatory control and, therefore, may not provide an added protective benefit via autonomic mechanisms against death by cardiovascular disease.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Physiological*
  • Adult
  • Baroreflex / physiology
  • Blood Pressure
  • Cardiovascular Physiological Phenomena*
  • Fourier Analysis
  • Heart Rate
  • Hemodynamics
  • Homeostasis
  • Humans
  • Life Style
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Physical Education and Training*
  • Physical Endurance*
  • Reference Values
  • Vascular Resistance