The Valleys Regional Park

Parc Rhanbarthol y Cymoedd

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KESS Studentship

The south Wales valleys suffer with some of the worst chronic health
problems in the UK. A KESS studentship working with Cardiff Metropolitan University
was supported by VRP through Groundwork Wales to study the physiological and
psychological benefits of ‘Green Exercise’

Data from the study, which are now being published, have identified novel
mechanisms by which ‘Green Exercise’ might be beneficial for p
hysical and mental
health and
provide support for the continuation and development of Green Exercise’
programnmes. The PhD student Jane Thompson successfully passed her PhD in 2014.

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Some of the first publications and their chief findings can be found below:

Matrix metalloproteinase-9 and augmentation index are reduced with an 8-week green-exercise walking programme (2013); Thompson JES, Webb R, Hewlett P, Llewellyn DH, McDonnell BJ – J. Hypertension (2013) 2: p. 127-33.

MMP-9 is involved in degrading the Extracellular Matrix (ECM); specifically elastin, which provides elasticity to the arterial wall. Elastin degradation and restructuring of the ECM results in increased vascular remodelling and arterial stiffness. Conversely, exercise improves age-related vascular stiffening. Therefore, this study aimed to investigate whether participation in a green-exercise programme affects vascular haemodynamics and mRNA expression of MMP-9.

These findings suggest that exercise-induced down-regulation of MMP-9 may contribute to reduced ECM degradation and therefore ameliorate vascular remodelling. Additional studies are needed to explore these findings further; however, these data may provide a biomolecular mechanism for aerobic exercises ability to delay age-related increases in arterial stiffening.

The effect of an 8-week, moderate-intensity, aerobic exercise intervention on MMP-9 and vascular haemodynamics (2013); Thompson JES, Webb R, Hewlett P, Llewellyn DH, McDonnell BJ – Artery Research (2013), 7; 140–14

The Matrix Metalloproteinase-9 (MMP-9) enzyme is involved in degrading extracellular matrix (ECM) proteins, including collagen and elastin. Increased MMP-9 levels are associated with increased vascular remodelling and arterial stiffness. Exercise improves age-related vascular stiffening. It is therefore hypothesised that participation in an aerobic, moderate-intensity exercise programme will down-regulate mRNA expression of MMP-9.