Regular exercise training has potent and powerful protective effects against the development of cardiovascular disease. These cardioprotective effects of regular exercise training are partly explained through the effects of exercise on traditional cardiovascular risk factors and improvement in cardiac and vascular health, which take several weeks to months to develop. This review focuses on the observation that single bouts of exercise may also possess an underrecognized, clinically useful form of immediate cardioprotection. Studies, performed in both animals and humans, demonstrate that single or short-term exercise-induced protection (SEP) attenuates the magnitude of cardiac and/or vascular damage in response to prolonged ischaemia and reperfusion injury. This review highlights preclinical evidence supporting the hypothesis that SEP activates multiple pathways to confer immediate protection against ischaemic events, reduce the severity of potentially lethal ischaemic myocardial injury, and therefore act as a physiological first line of defence against injury. Given the fact that the extent of SEP could be modulated by exercise-related and subject-related factors, it is important to recognize and consider these factors to optimize future clinical implications of SEP. This review also summarizes potential effector signalling pathways (i.e. communication between exercising muscles to vascular/cardiac tissue) and intracellular pathways (i.e. reducing tissue damage) that ultimately confer protection against cardiac and vascular injury. Finally, we discuss potential future directions for designing adequate human and animal studies that will support developing effective SEP strategies for the (multi-)diseased and aged individual. KEY POINTS: Single or short-term exercise-induced protection (SEP) attenuates the magnitude of cardiac and/or vascular damage in response to prolonged ischaemia and reperfusion injury (IR injury). SEP activates multiple pathways to confer cardiac protection, which develops remotely at the site of the activated muscle by release of circulating molecules, which transfer towards activation of intramyocardial signalling that promotes cell survival during episodes of IR injury. SEP represents an attractive intervention in aged individuals and in those with co-morbidities. The immediate protection, low cost and simplicity to increase the 'dose' of SEP offers unique opportunities in the clinical applications of SEP.
Keywords: cardioprotection; ischaemia reperfusion injury; ischaemic heart disease; single exercise-induced protection.
© 2021 The Authors. The Journal of Physiology published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of The Physiological Society.