Modulation of arterial stiffness with intensive competitive training

Rev Port Cardiol. 2006 Jul-Aug;25(7-8):709-14.


Background: Aerobic exercise training has been associated with beneficial effects on the cardiovascular system, improving arterial compliance, possibly related to a positive impact on the endothelium. The effects of competitive aerobic exercise are not so well documented. This prompted us to evaluate the possible modulation of arterial properties in a group of athletes and their response to the aging process.

Methods: 423 healthy males were enrolled in a cross-sectional study, 212 of whom were competitive athletes and 211 were controls. All underwent carotid-femoral pulse wave velocity (PWV) evaluation, and casual blood pressure and other relevant anthropometric data were evaluated.

Results: To control the effects of age, each group was divided into two subgroups with an age cut-point of 20 years. PWV was 6.3 +/- 0.9 m/s (athletes) vs. 7.0 +/- 1.0 m/s (controls) for ages <20 years, and 7.6 +/- 1.2 m/s (athletes) vs. 8.1 +/- 0.9 m/s (controls) for ages >20 years, with statistically significant differences in both comparisons. A linear regression model with logarithmic tendency analysis with age as the independent determinant of PWV revealed a different progression of age-related deterioration of aortic compliance between the two groups (athletes and controls).

Conclusions: Our data documented better compliance indices in competition athletes compared with controls, which may reflect optimization of endothelial function. This improvement was age-dependent, being less pronounced as the athletes grow older, which could be due partially to sustained stretching effects on the arterial walls in long-term competitors.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Arteries / physiology*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Elasticity
  • Exercise / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Sports / physiology*