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Health  2024 

Static Stretching Combined with Conscious Slower Breathing May Increase Parasympathetic Activity and Reduce Stress in Adult Women

DOI: 10.4236/health.2024.163020, PP. 242-256

Keywords: Static Stretching, Conscious Slower Breathing, Autonomic Activity, Heart Rate Variability, Stress

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Background: Women are thought to be more susceptible to stress than men in a stressful society, and reducing stress is crucial for women to maintain their health. Static stretching (SST) is applied in various fields to not only increase muscle flexibility but also reduce stress. Additionally, conscious slower breathing (CSB) predominates parasympathetic activity, causing a relaxing effect. These results indicate that combining SST and CSB may be more useful in reducing stress. However, to the best of our knowledge, the effect of this combination remains unclear. Objective: This study aimed to elucidate the effects of the combination of SST and CSB on autonomic activity and stress in adult women. Methods:?Eleven healthy Japanese adult female participants performed SST with nonconscious natural breathing for 20 min.?The same participants performed SST in combination with CSB (2 s inspiratory and 4 s expiratory) for 20 min on another day. Salivary cortisol and chromogranin A levels were measured before and after stretching as stress markers of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis and sympathetic nervous system. The coefficient of variation of the R-R interval (CVR-R) and high-frequency component (HF), which reflect parasympathetic nerve activity, and heart rate and low-frequency component (LF)/HF ratio, which reflect sympathetic nerve activity, were measured before, during, and after stretching. Results: SST decreased cortisol levels but with no significant changes in chromogranin A, heart rate, CVR-R, HF, or LF/HF ratio. The combination of SST and CSB increased CVR-R and HF levels in addition to decreasing cortisol levels but with no significant changes in chromogranin A, heart rate, or LF/HF levels. Conclusion: These results indicate that the combination of SST and CSB may increase parasympathetic activity and reduce stress. However, future randomized controlled trials with larger sample sizes should support


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