Brachial artery adaptation to lower limb exercise training: role of shear stress

J Appl Physiol (1985). 2012 May;112(10):1653-8. doi: 10.1152/japplphysiol.01489.2011. Epub 2012 Mar 8.


Lower limb exercise increases upper limb conduit artery blood flow and shear stress, and leg exercise training can enhance upper limb vascular function. We therefore examined the contribution of shear stress to changes in vascular function in the nonexercising upper limbs in response to lower limb cycling exercise training. Initially, five male subjects underwent bilateral brachial artery duplex ultrasound to measure blood flow and shear responses to 30-min cycling exercise at 80% of maximal heart rate. Responses in one forearm were significantly (P < 0.05) attenuated via cuff inflation throughout the exercise bout. An additional 11 subjects participated in an 8-wk cycle training study undertaken at a similar intensity, with unilateral cuff inflation around the forearm during each exercise bout. Bilateral brachial artery flow-mediated dilation responses to a 5-min ischemic stimulus (FMD%), an ischemic handgrip exercise stimulus (iEX), and endothelium-independent NO donor administration [glyceryl trinitrate (GTN)] were measured at 2, 4, and 8 wk. Cycle training increased FMD% in the noncuffed limb at week 2, after which time responses returned toward baseline levels (5.8 ± 4.1, 8.6 ± 3.8, 7.4 ± 3.5, 6.0 ± 2.3 at 0, 2, 4 and 8 wk, respectively; ANOVA: P = 0.04). No changes in FMD% were observed in the cuffed arm. No changes were evident in response to iEX or GTN in either the cuffed or noncuffed arms (P > 0.05) across the 8-wk intervention period. Our data suggest that lower limb cycle training induces a transient increase in upper limb vascular function in healthy young humans, which is, at least partly, mediated via shear stress.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Physiological
  • Adult
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Bicycling
  • Brachial Artery / diagnostic imaging
  • Brachial Artery / drug effects
  • Brachial Artery / physiopathology*
  • Endothelium, Vascular / physiopathology
  • Exercise*
  • Hand Strength
  • Heart Rate
  • Humans
  • Hyperemia / physiopathology
  • Ischemia / physiopathology
  • Lower Extremity
  • Male
  • Muscle Contraction*
  • Muscle, Skeletal / blood supply*
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiopathology*
  • Nitroglycerin / administration & dosage
  • Regional Blood Flow
  • Stress, Mechanical
  • Time Factors
  • Ultrasonography, Doppler, Duplex
  • Vasodilator Agents / administration & dosage
  • Young Adult


  • Vasodilator Agents
  • Nitroglycerin