Research Alert

Newswise — Large arteries like the aorta are flexible tubes that should easily stretch to accommodate blood flow. They tend to get less flexible with age and chronic medical conditions, a process called arterial stiffening that strongly predicts future cardiovascular disease like heart attacks. Fortunately, higher cardiorespiratory fitness, which is generally improved by aerobic physical activities like brisk walking, is associated with lower arterial stiffness, even among older adults who generally have higher arterial stiffness.

In contrast, very few studies have examined the relationship of muscular strength, generally improved with activities like weightlifting, and arterial stiffness after taking into consideration cardiorespiratory fitness. In this study, investigators found that objectively measured cardiorespiratory fitness and muscular strength were independently associated with lower arterial stiffness among 405 older adults; however, the lowest prevalence of arterial stiffness was found among those who had high levels of both cardiorespiratory fitness and muscular strength, suggesting an additive benefit of being both fit and strong.

While causation cannot be determined from this cross-sectional study, these results support the current U.S. Physical Activity Guidelines recommendations that older adults participate in both aerobic and muscle-strengthening activities to improve cardiorespiratory fitness and muscular strength and to promote good cardiovascular health.