Thickening of the carotid artery wall has been adopted as a surrogate marker of pre-clinical atherosclerosis, which is strongly related to increased cardiovascular risk. The cardioprotective effects of exercise training, including direct effects on vascular function and lumen dimension, have been consistently reported in asymptomatic subjects and those with cardiovascular risk factors and diseases. In the present review, we summarize evidence pertaining to the impact of exercise and physical activity on arterial wall remodelling of the carotid artery and peripheral arteries in the upper and lower limbs. We consider the potential role of exercise intensity, duration and modality in the context of putative mechanisms involved in wall remodelling, including haemodynamic forces. Finally, we discuss the impact of exercise training in terms of primary prevention of wall thickening in healthy subjects and remodelling of arteries in subjects with existing cardiovascular disease and risk factors.
Keywords: cardiovascular disease, exercise training, intima-media thickness, physical fitness, vascular remodelling
Abbreviations: ET-1, endothelin-1; FRS, Framingham Risk Score; ICAM-1, intercellular adhesion molecule-1; IMT, intima-media thickness; NOS, nitric oxide synthase; eNOS, endothelial NOS; PA, physical activity; ROS, reactive oxygen species; SNS, sympathetic nervous system; T1D, Type 1 diabetes; T2D, Type 2 diabetes; VCAM-1, vascular cell-adhesion molecule-1