Short-term physical inactivity impairs vascular function

Emily V. Nosova, Priscilla Yen, Karen C. Chong, Hugh F. Alley, Eveline O. Stock, Alex Quinn, Jason Hellmann, Michael S. Conte, Christopher D. Owens, Matthew Spite, S. Marlene Grenon

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65 Scopus citations


Background Sedentarism, also termed physical inactivity, is an independent risk factor for cardiovascular diseases. Mechanisms thought to be involved include insulin resistance, dyslipidemia, hypertension, and increased inflammation. It is unknown whether changes in vascular and endothelial function also contribute to this excess risk. We hypothesized that short-term exposure to inactivity would lead to endothelial dysfunction, arterial stiffening, and increased vascular inflammation. Methods Five healthy subjects (four men and one woman) underwent 5 d of bed rest (BR) to simulate inactivity. Measurements of vascular function (flow-mediated vasodilation to evaluate endothelial function; applanation tonometry to assess arterial resistance), inflammation, and metabolism were made before BR, daily during BR, and 2 d after BR recovery period. Subjects maintained an isocaloric diet throughout. Results BR led to significant decreases in brachial artery and femoral artery flow-mediated vasodilation (brachial: 11 ± 3% pre-BR versus 9 ± 2% end-BR, P = 0.04; femoral: 4 ± 1% versus 2 ± 1%, P = 0.04). The central augmentation index increased with BR (-4 ± 9% versus 5 ± 11%, P = 0.03). Diastolic blood pressure increased (58 ± 7 mm Hg versus 62 ± 7 mm Hg, P = 0.02), whereas neither systolic blood pressure nor heart rate changed. 15-Hydroxyeicosatetraenoic acid, an arachidonic acid metabolite, increased but the other inflammatory and metabolic biomarkers were unchanged. Conclusions Our findings show that acute exposure to sedentarism results in decreased endothelial function, arterial stiffening, increased diastolic blood pressure, and an increase in 15-hydroxyeicosatetraenoic acid. We speculate that inactivity promotes a vascular "deconditioning" state characterized by impaired endothelial function, leading to arterial stiffness and increased arterial tone. Although physiologically significant, the underlying mechanisms and clinical relevance of these findings need to be further explored.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)672-682
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Surgical Research
Issue number2
StatePublished - Aug 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Arterial stiffness
  • Endothelial dysfunction
  • Inflammation
  • Physical inactivity


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