Central Neural Mechanisms in the Cardiovascular Response to Exercise

  • Vernon S. Bishop
  • Steven W. Mifflin


Exercise or locomotion is part of normal behavior and is required for survival in many species. The cardiovascular responses to exercise depend on the intensity of activity and whether the exercise is dynamic or static. The general cardiovascular responses include an increase in heart rate (HR), mean arterial pressure (MAP), and sympathetic nerve activity (SNA). In dynamic exercise, cardiac output increases with increases in oxygen consumption while systemic vascular resistance (SVR) decreases markedly. Depending on the workload, adjustments in sympathetic outflow are required to maintain perfusion pressure in the face of the marked decrease in vascular resistance in response to the increased metabolic demands (Rowell, 1986). This may involve mechanisms that directly counteract the potential fall in MAP by vasoconstriction of the skeletal muscle vasculature. In addition, neural mechanisms may redistribute blood flow from visceral areas and nonexercising muscle to active muscle. The major neural mechanisms governing the rapid cardiovascular adjustments to dynamic exercise are the arterial barore-flexes, central command, and skeletal muscle afferent-mediated reflexes (Rowell and O’Leary, 1990).


Mean Arterial Pressure Cardiovascular Response Nucleus Tractus Solitarius Sympathetic Outflow Central Command 
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© Birkhäuser Boston 1992

Authors and Affiliations

  • Vernon S. Bishop
  • Steven W. Mifflin

There are no affiliations available

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