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Effect of Electrical Muscle Stimulation on Vascular Endothelial Function during Prolonged Sitting

Phys Ther Res 2022;25(3):127-133.


Objective: While prolonged sedentary behaviors (SBs) increase cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk, interrupting prolonged sitting (PS) with frequent light exercise reduces arterial functional decline. Skeletal muscle electrical stimulation (EMS) enhances peripheral circulation through passive muscle contraction, suggesting that EMS reduces CVD risk by providing an alternative to active exercise for prolonged SBs. This study aimed to investigate the effects of EMS to skeletal muscles during PS on the endothelial function of the brachial artery (BA).

Methods: Study participants included 12 healthy adult men who were subjected to 15 min of supine rest, followed by 1 h of PS only (control [CON] trial), or 20 min of EMS to the lower extremities at 50% of the maximum tolerance intensity during PS (EMS trial). Flow-mediated dilation (FMD) of the BA was measured before and 30 min after PS, and normalized FMD (nFMD) was calculated.

Results: The nFMD of the CON trial significantly decreased 30 min after PS completion (6.21% ± 1.13%) compared with that before PS (7.26% ± 0.73%), and there was no significant change in the EMS trial before and after PS. The EMS trial showed a significant increase in the nFMD 30 min after PS completion (1.14 ± 0.77) compared with that before PS (0.84 ± 0.43). However, no significant difference was observed in the CON trials.

Conclusion: Passive contraction of the lower extremity muscles by EMS increases BA nFMD, suggesting that prolonged sedentary lower extremity EMS use may reduce the risk of vascular endothelial dysfunction.

Keywords: Electrical muscle stimulation; Endothelial function; Flow-mediated vasodilation; Prolonged sitting.

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