Arterial stiffness in athletes

Authors: Adriana Albu¹, Cristina Bidian²

Affiliation: 1 2nd Department of internal Medicine

  2 Department of functional Biosciences, Physiology, ”Iuliu Hațieganu” University of Medicine and Pharmacy, Cluj-Napoca, 4th Medical Clinic


Competitive athletes are exposed to intensive and prolonged training which may determine structural and functional adaptations in the arterial system. Arterial stiffness is a characteristic of the aging process and an important predictor of cardiovascular morbidity and mortality. Hemodynamic stress induced by intensive training may influence arterial elastic properties. This article synthesizes the results of studies evaluating arterial stiffness parameters at rest and after acute bouts of exercise in athletes performing various types of intensive training programs.

In predominantly endurance trained subjects, some of the studies indicated reduced arterial stiffness and central pressures, while others showed no differences between the athletes and controls. Acute bouts of exercise increase pulse wave velocity and decrease central pressures. However, in ultra-marathon runners, decreased systemic compliance after the race, compared to basal values, was reported.

The differences between studies may be determined, at least partly, by the type, intensity and duration of physical training. The various methods used to measure arterial parameters in these studies make difficult the comparison between their results.

The mechanisms of vascular distensibility adaptation during intensive training are not yet elucidated, but hemodynamic factors, oxidative stress and systemic inflammation are discussed.

Keywords: arterial stiffness, central arterial pressures, competitive athletes.

Arterial stiffness in athletes