The influence of fitness on exercise blood pressure and its association with cardiac structure in adolescence

Zhengzheng Huang, Ricardo Fonseca, James E Sharman, Chloe Park, Nish Chaturvedi, Laura D Howe, Alun D Hughes, Martin G Schultz*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

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PURPOSE: Exaggerated exercise blood pressure (BP) is associated with altered cardiac structure and increased cardiovascular risk. Fitness modifies these associations, but the effect in healthy adolescents is unknown. We performed an observational study to determine the influence of fitness on post-exercise BP, and on its relationship with cardiac structure in adolescents.

METHODS: 4835 adolescents from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children, (15.4 (0.3) years, 49% male) completed a submaximal cycle test. Fitness was estimated as physical work capacity 170 adjusted for lean body mass and post-exercise BP measured immediately posttest. Cardiovascular structure and function, including left ventricular (LV) mass (n = 1589), left atrium (LA) size (n = 1466), cardiac output (CO, n = 1610), and total peripheral resistance (TPR, n = 1610) were measured at rest by echocardiography 2.4 (0.4) years later.

RESULTS: Post-exercise systolic BP increased stepwise by fitness tertile (131.2 mm Hg [130.4, 132.1]; 137.3 mm Hg [136.5, 138.0]; 142.3 mm Hg [141.5, 143.1]). Each 5 mm Hg of post-exercise systolic BP was associated with 2.46 g [1.91, 3.01] greater LV mass, 0.02 cm [0.02, 0.03] greater LA size, and 0.25 g/m2.7 [0.14, 0.36] greater LV mass index. Adjustment for fitness abolished associations (0.29 g [-0.16, 0.74]; 0.01 cm [-0.001, 0.014] and 0.08 g/m2.7 [-0.001, 0.002]). Similar associations between post-exercise systolic BP and each outcome were found between the lowest and highest fitness thirds. CO increased with fitness third (difference 0.06 L/min [-0.05, 0.17]; 0.23 L/min [0.12, 0.34]) while TPR decreased (difference -0.13 mm Hg·min/L [-0.84,0.59]; -1.08 mm Hg·min/L [-0.1.80, 0.35]).

CONCLUSIONS: Post-exercise systolic BP increased with fitness, which modified its association with cardiac structure. Higher CO, but lower TPR suggests a physiologically adapted cardiovascular system with greater fitness, highlighting the importance of fitness in adolescence.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1033-1039
Number of pages7
JournalScandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports
Issue number6
Early online date1 Apr 2020
Publication statusPublished - 18 May 2020


  • adolescent
  • blood pressure
  • exercise
  • fitness
  • left ventricle

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