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Low fitness may indicate poor arterial health in adolescents, according to a study.

The University of Jyvaskyla study also suggests that a higher anaerobic threshold is linked to better arterial health.

Arterial stiffness is one of the first signs of cardiovascular disease, and adults with increased arterial stiffness are at higher risk of developing clinical cardiovascular disease. However, arterial stiffening may already have its origin in childhood and adolescence.

"In our study we showed for the first time that the anaerobic threshold is also related to arterial stiffness," said Dr Eero Haapala.

Anaerobic threshold describes the exercise intensity that can be sustained for long periods of time without excess accumulation of lactic acid. The study showed that adolescents with a higher anaerobic threshold also had lower arterial stiffness than other adolescents did.

"The strength of determining anaerobic threshold is that it does not require maximal effort. The results of our study can be used to screen increased arterial stiffness in adolescents who cannot perform maximal exercise tests," Haapala explained.

-Fitness and arterial health can be improved

The results showed that both peak oxygen uptake and anaerobic threshold were related to arterial stiffness in adolescents between the ages of 16 and 19 years. Genetics may explain part of the observed associations but moderate and especially vigorous physical activity improves fitness and arterial health already in adolescence.

"Because the development of cardiovascular disease is a long process, sufficiently intense physical activity starting in childhood may be the first line in prevention of early arterial aging."

The results were published in the European Journal of Applied Physiology.
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