Exercise, vascular wall and cardiovascular diseases: an update (part 2)

Sports Med. 2009;39(1):45-63. doi: 10.2165/00007256-200939010-00004.


There is much evidence extolling the virtues of physical activity on cardiovascular disease (CVD). The evidence derives from different population groups where leisure time physical activity reduced the risk of coronary heart disease and cardiovascular mortality in both men and women. Recent meta-analyses have shown that large risk reductions for both ischaemic and haemorrhagic stroke can be achieved by moderate or intense physical activity. There are many data from human and animal studies confirming a beneficial role for exercise in the prevention and treatment of CVD. Physical inactivity and obesity/overweight are not only associated with a number of health-related risk factors, but are considered to be independent risk factors for CVD, type 2 diabetes mellitus and hypertension. Clinical trials confirm that lifestyle interventions (dietary modification and increased physical activity) reduce the risk of progressing from impaired glucose tolerance to type 2 diabetes. Moreover, epidemiological studies indicate that the risk of hypertension increases by being overweight. Modest increases in exercise intensity and frequency have hypotensive effects in sedentary hypertensive patients. Long-term training improves endothelium-dependent dilatation in the aorta and resistance arteries of the heart, whereas short-term training increases endothelial function in coronary conduit arteries. Overall, more scientific evidence will undoubtedly encourage the widespread advocacy of the clinical benefits of exercise therapy in the prevention and treatment of CVD.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Aging
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / physiopathology
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / prevention & control*
  • Cardiovascular System*
  • Diabetes Mellitus / physiopathology
  • Diabetes Mellitus / prevention & control
  • Endothelium, Vascular / physiology*
  • Exercise / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Metabolic Syndrome / physiopathology
  • Motor Activity / physiology*
  • Risk Factors