Lifetime Vigorous But Not Light-To-Moderate Habitual Physical Activity Impacts Favorably on Carotid Stiffness in Young Adults
Higher levels of habitual physical activity favorably impact on arterial stiffness. It is not clear, however, whether lifetime habitual physical activities of different intensities carry the same protective effect and to what extent any such effect is mediated by other biological cardiovascular risk factors. We, therefore, examined longitudinal data on habitual physical activity and cardiovascular risk factors (8 repeated measures between the ages of 13 and 36 years) in 373 subjects in whom stiffness estimates of the carotid artery were assessed at age 36 years using noninvasive ultrasonography. The time spent in habitual physical activities (in minutes per week) throughout the longitudinal period was compared between subjects across tertiles of the following stiffness estimates: β-stiffness index, distensibility and compliance coefficients, and the Young's elastic modulus. After adjustments for sex, body height, and other lifestyle variables, subjects in the highest tertile of the β-stiffness index (ie, with stiffer arteries) had spent, on average, throughout the longitudinal period, less time in vigorous (−26.5 [95% CI: −45.9 to −7.1]) but less so in light-to-moderate habitual physical activities (−11.2 [95% CI: −53.5 to 31.1]) as compared with subjects in the lowest tertile. The difference in time spent in vigorous activities was greatly attenuated when further adjusted for blood lipids, cardiorespiratory fitness, fat distribution, resting heart rate, and mean arterial pressure (to −11.2 [95% CI: −29.4 to 7.0]). Similar results were found for the other stiffness estimates. Promoting vigorous intensity physical activities among the healthy young may, therefore, prevent arterial stiffness and related cardiovascular sequelae later in life, partly through its favorable impact on other biological cardiovascular risk factors.