Exercise intolerance is a common clinical manifestation of CTD. Frequently, CTD patients have associated cardio-pulmonary disease, including pulmonary hypertension or heart failure that impairs aerobic exercise capacity (pVO2). The contribution of the systemic micro-vasculature to reduced exercise capacity in CTD patients without cardiopulmonary disease has not been fully described. In this study, we sought to examine the role of systemic vascular distensibility, α in reducing exercise capacity (i.e. pVO2) in CTD patients.Systemic and pulmonary vascular distensibility, α (%/mmHg) was determined from multipoint systemic pressure-flow plots during invasive cardiopulmonary exercise testing with pulmonary and radial arterial catheters in place in 42 CTD patients without cardiopulmonary disease and compared with 24 age and gender matched normal controls.During exercise, systemic vascular distensibility, α was reduced in CTD patients compared with controls (0.20 ± 0.12%/mmHg vs 0.30 ± 0.13%/mmHg, P =0.01). The reduced systemic vascular distensibility α, was associated with impaired stroke volume augmentation. On multivariate analysis, systemic vascular distensibility, α was associated with a decreased exercise capacity (pVO2) and decreased systemic oxygen extraction.Systemic vascular distensibility, α is associated with impaired systemic oxygen extraction and decreased aerobic capacity in patients with CTD without cardiopulmonary disease.