Postexercise Hypotension: Key Features, Mechanisms, and Clinical Significance

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Abstract

Recent investigations have demonstrated that there is a sustained reduction in arterial blood pressure after a single bout of exercise, ie, postexercise hypotension (PEH). The purpose of this discussion is to integrate the available information on this topic and to review studies using sustained stimulation of somatic afferents in experimental rats as a model to study the role of somatic afferents in PEH. PEH occurs in response to several types of large-muscle dynamic exercise (ie, walking, running, leg cycling, and swimming) at submaximal intensities greater than 40% of peak aerobic capacity and exercise durations generally between 20 and 60 minutes. PEH is observed in both normotensive and hypertensive humans and in spontaneously hypertensive rats but is generally greater in magnitude in hypertensive subjects. The maximal exercise-induced reductions in systolic and diastolic arterial blood pressures have been on average 18 to 20 and 7 to 9 mm Hg, respectively, in hypertensive humans and 8 to 10 and 3 to 5 mm Hg, respectively, in normotensive humans. PEH has been reported to persist for 2 to 4 hours under laboratory conditions. Whether PEH is sustained for a prolonged period of time under free-living conditions remains controversial, although the results of one study indicate that PEH can persist for up to 13 hours. Possible mechanisms involved in mediating postexercise and poststimulation reductions in arterial blood pressure include decreased stroke volume and cardiac output; reductions in limb vascular resistance, total peripheral resistance, and muscle sympathetic nerve discharge; group III somatic afferent activation; altered baroreceptor reflex circulatory control; reduced vascular responsiveness to α-adrenergic receptormediated stimulation; and activation of endogenous opioid and serotonergic systems. It appears that the magnitude of PEH in hypertensive subjects is clinically significant; however, more investigation is required to determine if the duration is sufficient under real-life conditions to contribute to the reduction in blood pressure observed with chronic exercise conditioning.

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