The Efficacy of Stretching Exercises on Arterial Stiffness in Middle-Aged and Older Adults: A Meta-Analysis of Randomized and Non-Randomized Controlled Trials

Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2020 Aug 5;17(16):5643. doi: 10.3390/ijerph17165643.


Background: Aerobic exercise is known to reduce arterial stiffness; however, high-intensity resistance exercise is associated with increased arterial stiffness. Stretching exercises are another exercise modality, and their effect on arterial stiffness remains unclear. The purpose of this study was to determine whether stretching exercises reduce arterial stiffness in middle-aged and older adults, performing the first meta-analysis of currently available studies.

Methods: We searched the literature for randomized controlled trials (RCTs) and non-RCTs published up to January 2020 describing middle-aged and older adults who participated in a stretching intervention vs. controls without exercise training. The primary and secondary outcomes were changes in arterial stiffness and vascular endothelial function and hemodynamic status. Pooled mean differences (MDs) and standard MDs (SMDs) with 95% confidence intervals (CIs) between the intervention and control groups were calculated using a random effects model.

Results: We identified 69 trials and, after an assessment of relevance, eight trials, including a combined total of 213 subjects, were analyzed. Muscle stretching exercises were shown to significantly reduce arterial stiffness and improve vascular endothelial function (SMD: -1.00, 95% CI: -1.57 to -0.44, p = 0.0004; SMD: 1.15, 95% CI: 0.26 to 2.03, p = 0.01, respectively). Resting heart rate (HR) and diastolic blood pressure (DBP) decreased significantly after stretching exercise intervention (MD: -0.95 beats/min, 95% CI: -1.67 to -0.23 beats/min, p = 0.009; MD: -2.72 mm Hg, 95% CI: -4.01 to -1.43 mm Hg, p < 0.0001, respectively) Conclusions: Our analyses suggest that stretching exercises reduce arterial stiffness, HR, and DBP, and improve vascular endothelial function in middle-aged and older adults.

Keywords: arterial stiffness; endothelial function; middle-aged; older adult; stretching exercises.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Blood Pressure
  • Exercise Therapy
  • Exercise*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pulse Wave Analysis
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Vascular Stiffness*