Vascular smooth muscle and exercise

T. N. Silfani, Chao-Yin Chen, R. D. Patil, S. E. DiCarlo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Vascular smooth muscle is under the influence of local (metabolic, autoregulatory and endothelial), reflex (autonomic nervous system), and hormonal (norepinephrine, epinephrine, angiotensin, and vasopressin) regulatory mechanisms. These regulatory mechanisms interact during exercise in a coordinated manner to assure adequate tissue blood flow while maintaining arterial blood pressure. The purpose of this article is to review the literature and propose a model that analyzes the factors regulating vascular smooth muscle during exercise. Specifically, at the onset of exercise, skeletal muscle fiber activation sets in motion a series of biochemical events that increase metabolic demand and produce cellular metabolites (adenosine, H+, P(i)). These metabolites have their greatest influence on vascular smooth muscle of the smallest terminal arterioles and cause relaxation. The relaxation/dilation of the terminal arteriole reduces the perfusion pressure on the upstream arterioles and the vessels relax (autoregulation) in response. Autoregulation increases blood flow which stimulates the release of endothelial derived relaxing factors. These events mediate a cascade, or 'migrating upstream vasodilation'. This vasodilation increases blood now to working muscles and improves oxygen supply. As exercise continues, an increased sympathetic nervous system activity and vasoactive hormones modulate vasodilation of vascular smooth muscle. Thus, during exercise, vascular smooth muscle is regulated by several mechanisms that are designed to redistribute cardiac output and assure adequate tissue blood flow while maintaining arterial blood pressure.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)301-320
Number of pages20
JournalSports Medicine, Training and Rehabilitation
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1999
Externally publishedYes


  • Autoregulation
  • Endothelium
  • Hormonal regulation
  • Sympathetic nerve activity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Rehabilitation


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