1. The reduction in vascular resistance which accompanies acute dynamic exercise does not subside immediately during recovery, resulting in a post-exercise hypotension. This sustained vasodilatation suggests that sympathetic vascular regulation is altered after exercise. 2. Therefore, we assessed the baroreflex control of sympathetic outflow in response to arterial pressure changes, and transduction of sympathetic activity into vascular resistance during a sympatho-excitatory stimulus (isometric handgrip exercise) after either exercise (60 min cycling at 60% peak aerobic power (VO2,peak)) or sham treatment (60 min seated rest) in nine healthy subjects. 3. Both muscle sympathetic nerve activity and calf vascular resistance were reduced after exercise (-29.7 +/- 8.8 and -25.3 +/- 9.1%, both P < 0.05). The baroreflex relation between diastolic pressure and sympathetic outflow was shifted downward after exercise (post-exercise intercept, 218 +/- 38 total integrated activity (heartbeat)-1; post-sham intercept, 318 +/- 51 total integrated activity (heartbeat)-1, P < 0.05), indicating less sympathetic outflow across all diastolic pressures. Further, the relation between sympathetic activity and vascular resistance was attenuated after exercise (post-exercise slope, 0.0031 +/- 0.0007 units (total integrated activity)-1 min; post-sham slope, 0.0100 +/- 0.0033 units (total integrated activity)-1 min, P < 0.05), indicating less vasoconstriction with any increase in sympathetic activity. 4. Thus, both baroreflex control of sympathetic outflow and the transduction of sympathetic activity into vascular resistance are altered after dynamic exercise. We conclude that the vasodilation which underlies post-exercise hypotension results from both neural and vascular phenomena.
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