Nitric oxide and muscle blood flow in exercise

Appl Physiol Nutr Metab. 2008 Feb;33(1):151-61. doi: 10.1139/H07-148.


Despite being the subject of investigation for well over 100 years, the nature of exercising muscle blood flow control remains, in many respects, poorly understood. In this review we focus on the potential role of nitric oxide in vasodilation of muscle resistance vessels during a bout of exercise. Its contribution is explored in the context of whether it contributes to steady-state exercise hyperemia, the dynamic adjustment of muscle blood flow to exercise, or the modulation of sympathetic vasoconstriction in exercising muscle. It appears that the obligatory role of nitric oxide in all three of these categories is modest at best. The elucidation of the integrated nature of exercise hyperemia control in terms of synergy and redundancy of mechanism interaction remains in its infancy, and much more remains to be learned about the role of nitric oxide in this type of integrated control.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Blood Vessels / innervation
  • Blood Vessels / physiology
  • Exercise / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Muscle, Skeletal / blood supply*
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiology*
  • Nitric Oxide / physiology*
  • Physical Conditioning, Animal / physiology
  • Regional Blood Flow / physiology*


  • Nitric Oxide