Vascular endothelial cells produce nitric oxide (NO), which is a potent vasodilator substance and is thought to have antiatherosclerotic properties. Therefore, it has also been proposed that NO may be useful to regulate vascular tonus and prevent progression of atherosclerosis. On the other hand, NO activity reduces with aging. We previously reported that the plasma nitrite/nitrate (NOx: the stable end product of NO) concentration was significantly increased by intense aerobic exercise training in healthy young humans. We hypothesized that lifestyle modification (e.g., even mild regular exercise training) can increase NO production in previously sedentary older humans. We measured the plasma NOx concentration before and after a mild aerobic exercise training regimen (cycling on a leg ergometer at 80% ventilatory threshold for 30 min, 5 days/week) for 3 months in elderly women. In addition, we assessed the plasma concentration of cyclic guanosine monophosphate (cGMP), a second messenger of NO, in the same samples. The individual ventilatory threshold increased significantly after the 3-month exercise training. The blood pressure at rest significantly decreased after exercise training. These results suggest that the 3-month exercise training in the older women produced favorable physiological effects. The plasma concentration of NOx significantly increased by the exercise training, and the plasma concentration of cGMP also increased by the exercise training. The present study suggests that even a mild regular aerobic-endurance exercise increases NO production in previously sedentary older humans, which may have beneficial effect (i.e., antlhypertensive and antiatherosclerotic effects by endogenous NO) on the cardiovascular system.
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