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Longitudinal Changes in VO2max: Associations with Carotid IMT and Arterial Stiffness


Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise: October 2003 - Volume 35 - Issue 10 - p 1670-1678
doi: 10.1249/01.MSS.0000089247.37563.4B
BASIC SCIENCES: Original Investigations

FERREIRA, I., J. W. R. TWISK, C. D. A. STEHOUWER, W. VAN MECHELEN, and H. C. G. KEMPER. Longitudinal Changes in V̇O2max: Associations with Carotid IMT and Arterial Stiffness. Med. Sci. Sports Exerc., Vol. 35, No. 10, pp. 1670–1678, 2003.

Purpose High levels of cardiorespiratory fitness (V̇O2max) are associated with reduced risk of cardiovascular morbidity and mortality. However, little is known to what extent longitudinal changes in V̇O2max affect arterial wall thickness and stiffness, i.e., two major risk factors for cardiovascular disease. We therefore investigated the relationship between changes in V̇O2max from adolescence (13–16 yr) to adulthood (age 36) and from young adulthood (21–32 yr) to age 36, and carotid intima-media thickness (IMT) and stiffness of the carotid, femoral, and brachial arteries, at age 36.

Methods Analyses of changes in V̇O2max from adolescence to age 36 consisted of 154 subjects (79 women), and from young adulthood to age 36 consisted of a subpopulation of 118 subjects (62 women). Throughout the years, V̇O2max was measured directly with a maximal running test on a treadmill. When the subjects had the mean age of 36, carotid IMT and large artery stiffness (distensibility and compliance coefficients) were assessed noninvasively by ultrasound imaging methods.

Results Longitudinal changes in V̇O2max were not significantly associated with carotid IMT. Changes in V̇O2max were inversely and significantly associated with large artery stiffness. These associations were not uniform throughout the arterial tree, being stronger and independent of changes in other risk factors in the muscular (brachial and femoral) arteries but dependent on and possibly mediated by concomitant changes in HDL cholesterol and body weight in the elastic carotid artery.

Conclusion Increases in V̇O2max that occur from adolescence up to age 36 are associated with less arterial stiffness. Improving V̇O2max by increasing physical activity levels may therefore contribute to a reduction in mortality from cardiovascular disease through decreasing arterial stiffness.

1Institute for Research in Extramural Medicine,

2Department of Clinical Epidemiology and Biostatistics,

3Department of Internal Medicine and the Institute for Cardiovascular Research, and

4Department of Social Medicine and Body@Work–Research Centre for Physical Activity, Work and Health TNO-VU, VU University Medical Center, Amsterdam, THE NETHERLANDS

Address for correspondence: Prof. Dr. Han C. G. Kemper, EMGO-Institute, VU University Medical Center, Van der Boechorststraat 7, 1081 BT Amsterdam, The Netherlands; E-mail:

Submitted for publication August 2002.

Accepted for publication May 2003.

©2003The American College of Sports Medicine