Effects of Acute Stretching Exercise and Training on Heart Rate Variability: A Review

Alexei Wong, Arturo Figueroa

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Stretching (ST), an exercise modality widely used for flexibility improvement, has been recently proposed as an effective adjunct therapy for declines in cardiovascular health, warranting research into the effects of ST exercise on cardiac autonomic function (CAF). Heart rate (HR) variability (HRV) is a reliable measure of CAF, mainly the sympathetic and parasympathetic modulations of HR. A low HRV has been associated to increased risk of cardiovascular events and mortality. Exercise interventions that enhance HRV are therefore seen as beneficial to cardiovascular health and are sought after. In this review, we discuss the effect of ST both acute and training on HRV. Stretching training seems to be a useful therapeutic intervention to improve CAF in different populations. Although the mechanisms by which ST training improves CAF are not yet well understood; increases in baroreflex sensitivity, relaxation, and nitric oxide bioavailability seem to play an important role.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1459-1466
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of strength and conditioning research
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1 2021


  • autonomic function
  • stretch exercise
  • stretching training


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