DOI: 10.1152/ajpheart.00303.2023 ISSN: 0363-6135

Autonomic cardiovascular control during exercise

Hsuan-Yu Wan, Kanokwan Bunsawat, Markus Amann
  • Physiology (medical)
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine
  • Physiology

The cardiovascular response to exercise is largely determined by neurocirculatory control mechanisms that help to raise blood pressure and modulate vascular resistance which, in concert with regional vasodilatory mechanisms, promote blood flow to active muscle and organs. These neurocirculatory control mechanisms include a feedforward mechanism, known as central command, and three feedback mechanisms, namely, 1) the baroreflex, 2) the exercise pressor reflex, and 3) the arterial chemoreflex. The hemodynamic consequences of these control mechanisms result from their influence on the autonomic nervous system and subsequent alterations in cardiac output and vascular resistance. Although stimulation of the baroreflex inhibits sympathetic outflow and facilitates parasympathetic activity, central command, the exercise pressor reflex, and the arterial chemoreflex facilitate sympathetic activation and inhibit parasympathetic drive. Despite considerable understanding of the cardiovascular consequences of each of these mechanisms in isolation, the circulatory impact of their interaction, which occurs when various control systems are simultaneously activated (e.g., during exercise at altitude), has only recently been recognized. Although aging and cardiovascular disease (e.g., heart failure, hypertension) have both been recognized to alter the hemodynamic consequences of these regulatory systems, this review is limited to provide a brief overview on the action and interaction of neurocirculatory control mechanisms in health.

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