Visual performance is impaired when the ocular blood flow decreases, indicating that ocular blood flow plays a role in maintaining visual performance during exercise. We examined the ocular blood flow response to incremental cycling exercise to test the hypothesis that ocular blood flow is relatively stable during dynamic exercise because of its autoregulatory nature. The blood flow in the inferior and superior temporal retinal arterioles (ITRA and STRA, respectively) and retinal and choroidal vessels (RCV), mean arterial pressure, and heart rate (HR) were measured at rest and during leg cycling in nine young and healthy subjects (26 ± 5 years, mean ± SD). Ocular blood flow was measured by laser speckle flowmetry. The exercise intensity was incremented by 30 W every 3 min until the subject was unable to maintain a position appropriate for measuring ocular blood flow. Blood flow data obtained during cycling exercise were categorized based on HR as follows: <100, 100-120, and >120 bpm. Blood flow in the RCV increased with the exercise intensity: by 16 ± 8, 32 ± 13, and 40 ± 19% from baseline, respectively. However, blood flow and vascular conductance in the ITRA and STRA did not change significantly with exercise. These findings demonstrate for the first time that ocular blood flow increases in the retina and choroid, but not in the arterioles, with increasing exercise intensity during dynamic exercise.
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