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Kaelyn Spears1, Kylee West2,,1, Gregory J. Grosicki1, Barry Joyner2, Collin Smith3, Nick J. Siekirk2. 1Georgia Southern University (Armstrong), Savannah, GA. 2Georgia Southern University, Statesboro, GA. 3East Georgia Regional Hospital, Statesboro, GA.

BACKGROUND: Approximately 75% of Americans ≥60 years have hypertension, which is the leading modifiable risk factor for cardiovascular disease and all-cause mortality. Chronic aerobic exercise reduces blood pressure (BP), and even a single bout of aerobic exercise can yield a sustained reduction in BP (i.e., postexercise hypotension). There is mounting evidence that chronic stretching may also reduce BP, but whether a single bout of stretching can acutely lower BP, as is seen with aerobic exercise, is less clear. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to examine the effects of acute trunk stretching using an exercise ball on central and peripheral BP in middle-aged to older adults. METHODS: We measured central and peripheral BP using a SphgymoCor XCEL device in 13 middle-aged to older adults (6M/7F; 70 ± 9 yrs; 31.1 ± 4.4 kg/m2; Means ± SD) before and 10-min after partner-assisted passive trunk stretching and a time-matched control visit, the order of which was randomized. The passive stretching visit consisted of six trunk stretches (flexion, extension, and bi-directional lateral flexion and standing rotation). For each participant, the first stretch was randomized. Each stretch was held for 30 seconds, followed by 30 seconds of relaxation, and this sequence was repeated 5 times in rotational order for a total of 30 minutes. The time-matched control visit consisted of 30 minutes of quiet seated upright rest. Visits were separated by a minimum of 48 hours (average separation = 7 ± 9 days). A repeated measures linear mixed model was used to compare changes (Δ; post - pre) in BP between visits. RESULTS: Average resting central BP was 120 ± 9 / 76 ± 10 mmHg and brachial BP was 128 ± 10 / 75 ± 9 mmHg during the two visits. Changes in brachial systolic (stretch: -4 ± 7 mmHg vs. control: 6 ± 6 mmHg; p = 0.002) and diastolic (stretch: -3 ± 4 mmHg vs. control: 2 ± 4 mmHg; p = 0.009) BP, as well as central systolic (stretch: -4 ± 6 mmHg vs. control: 6 ± 6 mmHg; p < 0.001) and diastolic (stretch: -3 ± 6 mmHg vs. control: 3 ± 5 mmHg; p = 0.014) BP measurements differed between visits. CONCLUSION: These preliminary findings indicate that acute passive assisted trunk stretching with an exercise ball reduces central and peripheral blood pressure in middle-aged to older adults.

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