Purpose: Regular exercise augments endothelium-dependent vasodilatory capacity in the vasculature located in the nonworking limbs. We determined whether blood flow as well as shear stress would change in inactive limbs during acute incremental exercise.
Methods: Eight young healthy female subjects performed graded exercise on arm and leg cycle ergometers that had been modified to minimize the movement of nonworking limbs and to facilitate the placement of Doppler transducers. Both brachial and femoral blood flow was monitored using Doppler ultrasonography. EMG activity was also measured to document that there was no muscular activity in nonworking muscles.
Results: During leg exercise, brachial blood flow and calculated shear stress gradually and curvilinearly increased (P < 0.05). At the peak work rate, there was an approximately fourfold increase in blood flow in the brachial artery (19 ± 6 vs 77 ± 16 mL·min−1). Femoral blood flow and calculated shear stress increased progressively and linearly during arm exercise (P < 0.05).
Conclusion: We concluded that blood flow to the nonworking limbs increases markedly in proportion to the work intensity. These results suggest that the conduit arteries in the nonworking limbs are exposed to increases in blood flow and shear stress during exercise.