Exercise and arterial adaptation in humans: uncoupling localized and systemic effects

N.J. Rowley, E.A. Dawson, G.K. Birk, N.T. Cable, K. George, G. Whyte, D.H.J. Thijssen, Daniel Green

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

74 Citations (Scopus)


Previous studies have established effects of exercise training on arterial wall thickness, remodeling, and function in humans, but the extent to which these changes are locally or systemically mediated is unclear. We examined the brachial arteries of the dominant (D) and nondominant (ND) upper limbs of elite racquet sportsmen and compared them to those of matched healthy inactive controls. Carotid and superficial femoral artery responses were also assessed in both groups. High-resolution duplex ultrasound was used to examine resting diameter, wall thickness, peak diameter, and blood flow. We found larger resting arterial diameter in the preferred arm of the athletes (4.9 +/- 0.5 mm) relative to their nonpreferred arm (4.3 +/- 0.4 mm, P <0.05) and both arms of control subjects (D: 4.1 +/- 0.4 mm; ND: 4.0 +/- 0.4, P <0.05). Similar limb-specific differences were also evident in brachial artery dilator capacity (5.5 +/- 0.5 vs. 4.8 +/- 0.4, 4.8 +/- 0.6, and 4.8 +/- 0.6 mm, respectively; P <0.05) following glyceryl trinitrate administration and peak blood flow (1,118 +/- 326 vs. 732 +/- 320, 737 +/- 219, and 698 +/- 174 ml/min, respectively; P <0.05) following ischemic handgrip exercise. In contrast, athletes demonstrated consistently lower wall thickness in carotid (509 +/- 55 mu m), brachial (D: 239 +/- 100 mu m; ND: 234 +/- 133 mu m), and femoral (D: 479 +/- 38 mu m; ND: 479 +/- 42 mu m) arteries compared with control subjects (carotid: 618 +/- 74 mu m; brachial D: 516 +/- 100 mu m; ND: 539 +/- 129 mu m; femoral D: 634 +/- 155 mu m; ND: 589 +/- 112 mu m; all P <0.05 vs. athletes), with no differences between the limbs of either group. These data suggest that localized effects of exercise are evident in the remodeling of arterial size, whereas arterial wall thickness appears to be affected by systemic factors.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1190-1195
JournalJournal of Applied Physiology
Publication statusPublished - 2011


Dive into the research topics of 'Exercise and arterial adaptation in humans: uncoupling localized and systemic effects'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this