Filling the risk factor gap: How does exercise exert its cardiovascular benefits?

Explore the beneficial effects of exercise on vascular function and health

Exercise training has strong and independent cardioprotective effects which are, in part, mediated through a direct effect of exercise training on the vasculature (Green 2009; Green et al. 2008).

More specifically, our team has identified a biphasic adaptive response in large conduit arteries following exercise training in humans, with functional changes preceding structural remodelling (Tinken et al. 2008). These beneficial adaptations appear to be dependent on changes in lumenal blood flow and intimal shear stress (Thijssen et al. 2011; Tinken et al. 2010).

These studies, amongst others, involve the use of high-resolution Doppler ultrasound to directly quantify arterial shear stress as well as changes in function, size and wall thickness of arteries in vivo.

In addition, studies investigating smaller skin blood vessels reveal exercise training (Black et al. 2008) and whole body heating (Carter et al. 2014) enhance microvascular vasodilator function, results which appear to be dependent on repetitive increases in blood flow.

These collective studies highlight the role of blood flow and shear stress as an adaptive stimulus to the whole arterial tree.

As such, acute studies focusing on the role of shear stress, dependent and independent of exercise (Carter et al. 2013; Dawson et al. 2013; Tinken et al. 2009), have sought to determine how such a stimulus can modulate vascular behaviour and how differential shear patterns can alter the direction of the acute vascular change i.e. exposure to retrograde shear rate can negatively affect vascular function (Green et al. 2002; Thijssen et al. 2009).

We aim to further this research on the importance of shear stress, including but not limited to:

  • isolating the effect of different shear patterns when accompanied by other systemic stimuli (transmural pressure, sympathetic stimulation)
  • shear profiles: shear rate patterns and the role of antegrade versus retrograde flow on function
  • shear patterns during exercise in different regional vascular beds
  • microvascular adaptations to exercise and heating: role of blood flow

Read more about our exercise research or our cardiovascular research group.

For more background information, see the suggested readings below.

Suggested readings

Research team leader: Professor Daniel John Green

I am a human integrative biologist whose research focuses on the prevention of cardiovascular diseases. My specific expertise relates to novel imaging approaches to the assessment of micro and macrovascular diseases, including surrogate measures of early and occult disease.

How to apply

Interested in becoming part of this project? Complete the following steps to submit your expression of interest:

Step 1 - Check criteria

General UWA PhD entrance requirements can be found on the Future Students website.

Requirements specific to this project:

  • Knowledge of cardiovascular physiology, techniques and exercise training

Step 2 - Submit enquiry to research team leader

Step 3 - Lodge application

After you have discussed your project with the research team leader, you should be in a position to proceed to the next step of the UWA application process: Lodge an application. Different application procedures apply to domestic and international students.


Scholarships specific to this project

Top-up scholarships may be available for this project. Contact the research team for details.

Domestic students

All domestic students may apply for Research Training Program and University Postgraduate Awards (UPA) scholarships

International students

A range of scholarships are available from international organisations and governments. The full list, organised by country, is available on the Future Students website.

In addition, all international students may apply for International Research Training Program scholarships.

Indigenous students
Indigenous students are encouraged to apply for Indigenous Postgraduate Research Supplementary Scholarships.
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