University of Virginia School of Nursing
Prof. Jeongok Logan leads a study subject through gentle stretches.

Early results from assistant professor Jeongok Logan’s study on the effect of gentle stretches on arteries’ stiffness has yielded some compelling findings.

The study assessed the association between trunk flexibility and rigidity of the carotid to femoral arteries, examining whether a single bout of stretching would actually decrease arterial stiffness, easily measured using a pulse wave velocity machine.

While arteries naturally stiffen with age, such stiffness is known to be one of the causes of hypertension, a precursor to cardiovascular diseases such as stroke and high blood pressure.

Thirty healthy middle-aged women followed a whole-body stretching demonstration for 30 minutes, and had their pulse wave velocity measured both before and after stretching. Logan found subjects’ arterial stiffness significantly decreased after the gentle stretching (p=.011), evidence that may imply that lifestyle changes and the introduction of physical activity may naturally ease arterial stiffness without resorting to drugs or surgery.

Logan hopes to do further research to sort out the most effective stretches that reduce central artery stiffness to come up with a precise intervention easily adaptable in a modern life.

Logan says the work – while preliminary – helps broaden understanding of the biological mechanism of how arteries become stiff, and lead to other lifestyle and drug interventions to combat the condition. She’ll use these results (supported by the Roberts Scholars program, which offers new research faculty seed money over three years) to expand the pilot and inform her NIH-funded study on arterial stiffness and stress.