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Arterial stiffness is one of the first signs of cardiovascular disease, and adults with increased arterial stiffness are at higher risk of developing the clinical cardiovascular disease. However, arterial stiffening may have its origin already in childhood and adolescence.
Dr Eero Haapala, one of the lead researchers said, "In our study, we showed for the first time that the anaerobic threshold is also related to arterial stiffness."
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Anaerobic threshold describes the exercise intensity that can be sustained for long periods of time without excess accumulation of lactic acid. The study showed that adolescents with a higher anaerobic threshold also had lower arterial stiffness than other adolescents did.
"The strength of determining anaerobic threshold is that it does not require maximal effort," Haapala explains. "The results of our study can be used to screen increased arterial stiffness in adolescents who cannot perform maximal exercise tests."
The results showed that both peak oxygen uptake and anaerobic threshold were related to arterial stiffness in adolescents between the ages of 16 and 19 years. Genetics may explain part of the observed associations but moderate and especially vigorous physical activity improves fitness and arterial health already in adolescence.
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"Because the development of cardiovascular disease is a long process, sufficiently intense physical activity starting in childhood may be the first line in the prevention of early arterial ageing," Haapala explained.
The study investigated the associations of directly measured peak oxygen uptake and anaerobic threshold with arterial stiffness among 55 Finnish adolescents between the ages of 16 and 19 years. Peak oxygen uptake and anaerobic threshold were assessed using a maximal exercise test on a cycle ergometer.
Arterial stiffness was measured using pulse wave analysis based on non-invasive oscillometric tonometry. Various confounding factors, including body fat percentage and systolic blood pressure, were controlled for in the analyses.
The full findings are present in the Journal of Applied Physiology.