How is exercise related to arterial health?

Aerobic exercise tends to make your arteries less stiff and more elastic. Immediately following exercise, arterial wave reflection is much reduced. The long-term effect of exercise is commonly to increase arterial elasticity at rest.

What type of exercise has benefits?

Aerobic exercise has been shown to improve the elasticity of arteries. However, strength-based training alone does not. Flexibility is also associated with arterial stiffness.

A selection of external links:

  • Large Artery Stiffness: Implications for Exercise Capacity And Cardiovascular Risk

  • Flexibility exercises like Pilates and yoga could prevent, treat stiff arteries

  • Cardiorespiratory Fitness, Physical Activity, and Arterial Stiffness

  • Aerobic Exercise No Big Stretch for Older Adults But Helps Elasticity Of Arteries

What can BP+ tell me about exercise?

The Medi-stats portal and BP+ lets you see the effect of exercise on your arteries in a way that blood pressure alone does not. BP+ information is useful in assessing:

  • Warm up - how fast the arteries expand in response to the start of exercise, and when they are ready for a full work-out.

  • Immediate effects of exercise - how arteries have dilated to improve blood flow to the rest of the body.

  • Recovery - how fast the arteries return to their resting state.

  • Long-term benefits - measure the improvement in Augmentation Index in response to exercise.

What is a typical response to exercise?

Aerobic exercise will decrease augmentation index and increase pulse rate with little change in blood pressure. In the period following exercise, the augmentation index will increase towards its original value. Pulse rate will decrease towards the resting pulse rate. A typical response is shown in the chart below.


The BP+ peripheral pulse wave is shown below. Exercise causes a very significant change in pulse shape.

What happens during a warm-up?

When exercise is first started, the heart works hard to deliver blood to the arteries but the arteries have not had a chance to respond. The increase in heart-work increases blood pressure. During the warm-up phase, the arteries begin to dilate to help deliver more blood to the rest of the body. This reduces the load on the heart and blood pressure returns to normal even though pulse rate is elevated.