Rationale: Intense exercise in elite athletes is associated with increased left ventricular (LV) and right ventricular (RV) mass and volumes. However, the effect of physical activity on the RV in an older community-based population is unknown.
Objectives: We studied the association between levels of physical activity in adults and RV mass and volumes.
Methods: The Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA) performed cardiac magnetic resonance imaging on community-based participants without clinical cardiovascular disease. RV volumes were determined from manually contoured endocardial margins. RV mass was determined from the difference between epicardial and endocardial volumes multiplied by the specific gravity of myocardium. Metabolic equivalent–minutes/day were calculated from the self-reported frequency, duration, and intensity of physical activity.
Measurements and Main Results: The study sample (n = 1,867) was aged 61.8 ± 10 years, 48% male, 44% white, 27% African American, 20% Hispanic, and 9% Chinese. Higher levels of moderate and vigorous physical activity were linearly associated with higher RV mass (P = 0.02) after adjusting for demographics, anthropometrics, smoking, cholesterol, diabetes mellitus, hypertension, and LV mass. Higher levels of intentional exercise (physical activity done for the sole purpose of conditioning or fitness) were nonlinearly associated with RV mass independent of LV mass (P = 0.03). There were similar associations between higher levels of physical activity and larger RV volumes.
Conclusions: Higher levels of physical activity in adults were associated with greater RV mass independent of the associations with LV mass; similar results were found for RV volumes. Exercise-associated RV remodeling may have important clinical implications.