Combining remote ischemic preconditioning and aerobic exercise: A novel adaptation of blood flow restriction exercise

Justin D. Sprick, Caroline A. Rickards

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11 Scopus citations


Remote ischemic preconditioning (RIPC) can attenuate tissue damage sustained by ischemia-reperfusion injury. Blood flow restriction exercise (BFRE) restricts blood flow to exercising muscles. We implemented a novel approach to BFRE with cyclical bouts of blood flow restriction-reperfusion, reflecting the RIPC model. A concern about BFRE, however, is potential amplification of the exercise pressor reflex, which could be unsafe in at-risk populations. We hypothesized that cyclical BFRE would elicit greater increases in sympathetic outflow and arterial pressure than conventional exercise (CE) when performed at the same relative intensity. We also assessed the cerebrovascular responses due to potential implementation of BFRE in stroke rehabilitation. Fourteen subjects performed treadmill exercise at 65–70% maximal heart rate with and without intermittent BFR (4 × 5-min intervals of bilateral thigh-cuff pressure followed by 5-min reperfusion periods). Mean arterial pressure (MAP), plasma norepinephrine (NE), and middle and posterior cerebral artery velocities (MCAv and PCAv) were compared between trials. As expected, BFRE elicited higher concentration NE compared with CE (1249 ± 170 vs. 962 ± 114 pg/ml; P = 0.06). Unexpectedly, however, there were no differences in MAP between conditions (overall P = 0.33), and MAP was 4–5 mmHg lower with BFRE versus CE during the reperfusion periods (P ≤ 0.05 for reperfusion periods 3 and 4). There were no differences in MCAv or PCAv between trials (P ≤ 0.22), suggesting equivalent cerebrometabolic demand. The exaggerated sympathoexcitatory response with BFRE was not accompanied by higher MAP, likely because of the cyclical reperfusions. This cyclical BFRE paradigm could be adapted to cardiac or stroke rehabilitation, where exercising patients could benefit from the cardio and cerebro protection associated with RIPC.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)R497-R506
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Regulatory Integrative and Comparative Physiology
Issue number5
StatePublished - Nov 2017


  • Exercise for cardiac rehabilitation
  • Exercise for stroke rehabilitation
  • Vascular occlusion training


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