Swimming exercise, arterial stiffness, and elevated blood pressure
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Age is the major risk factor for cardiovascular diseases (CVD) and this is attributable in part to stiffening of large elastic arteries and development of vascular endothelial dysfunction. In contrast, regular aerobic exercise is associated with reduced risk of CVD. Swimming is an attractive form of aerobic exercise and always recommended for health promotion as well as prevention and treatment of risk factors for CVD. However, there is little scientific evidence to date indicating that swimming is equally efficacious to land-based exercise modes in reducing cardiovascular risks. Accordingly, the aim of the research was to determine the role of regular swimming exercise on both CVD traditional risk factors and vascular functions. To comprehensively address this aim, 2 different approaches were used: Study 1 (cross-sectional study) was designed to determine the potential benefit of regular swimming exercise in the primary prevention of age-related decreases in vascular function. Key measurements of vascular function were performed in middle-aged and older swimmers, runners, and sedentary controls. Central arterial compliance was higher in swimmers and runners than in sedentary controls. Study 2 (intervention study) was designed to determine whether regular swimming exercise could reverse the age-associated decline in vascular function. Middle-aged and older subjects completed either a 12-week swim training program or relaxation/ stretching exercise (attention control) program. Short-term swim training improved arterial blood pressure and vascular functions. In summary, regular swimming exercise can attenuate reductions in and partially restore the loss of vascular function including central arterial compliance and endothelial function in middle-aged and older adults. Swimming exercise exhibited typical central arterial compliance and endothelial function phenotypes that are often displayed in land-based exercise.