Blood flow restriction training (BFRT) is an increasingly widespread method of exercise that involves imposed restriction of blood flow to the exercising muscle. Blood flow restriction is achieved by inflating a pneumatic pressure cuff (or a tourniquet) positioned proximal to the exercising muscle before, and during, the bout of exercise (i.e., ischemic exercise). Low-intensity BFRT with resistance training promotes comparable increases in muscle mass and strength observed during high-intensity exercise without blood flow restriction. BFRT has expanded into the clinical research setting as a potential therapeutic approach to treat functionally impaired individuals, such as the elderly, and patients with orthopedic and cardiovascular disease/conditions. However, questions regarding the safety of BFRT must be fully examined and addressed before the implementation of this exercise methodology in the clinical setting. In this respect, there is a general concern that BFRT may generate abnormal reflex-mediated cardiovascular responses. Indeed, the muscle metaboreflex is an ischemia-induced, sympathoexcitatory pressor reflex originating in skeletal muscle, and the present review synthesizes evidence that BFRT may elicit abnormal cardiovascular responses resulting from increased metaboreflex activation. Importantly, abnormal cardiovascular responses are more clearly evidenced in populations with increased cardiovascular risk (e.g., elderly and individuals with cardiovascular disease). The evidence provided in the present review draws into question the cardiovascular safety of BFRT, which clearly needs to be further investigated in future studies. This information will be paramount for the consideration of BFRT exercise implementation in clinical populations.
AJP - Heart and Circulatory Physiology – The American Physiological Society
Published: Jan 1, 2020
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