European Journal of Applied Physiology

, Volume 119, Issue 2, pp 551–559 | Cite as

Cardiovascular and autonomic responses to passive arm or leg movement in men and women

  • Bahareh Fouladi
  • Hitesh Joshi
  • Heather EdgellEmail author
Original Article



Women display an attenuated mechanoreflex during leg movement; however, sex differences in the response to arm movement are unknown.


Men (n = 12) and women (n = 10) performed passive arm or leg movement where either the right elbow or right knee was passively flexed/extended for 3 min at 30 times/min. Mean arterial pressure (MAP), cardiac output index (Qi), and heart rate (HR) were continuously measured and 1-min averages along with peak values were obtained. Heart rate variability was measured at baseline and throughout 3 min of passive movement.


Men had a greater average HR (P = 0.006) and Qi (P = 0.05) responses to passive limb movement compared to women. Men also had a greater (P = 0.02) and faster (P = 0.04) peak Qi response compared to women. During arm movement, men exhibited a greater change of average MAP compared to both women (P = 0.002) and leg movement (P = 0.05). Movement of either limb in both sexes decreased low-frequency power (LF; P = 0.04), decreased low-frequency to high-frequency ratio (LF/HF; P = 0.03), and increased high-frequency power (HF; P = 0.01) of heart rate variability. Women had lower pulse wave velocity (P = 0.02), higher root mean square of the successive differences (RMSSD; P = 0.04), lower LF power (P = 0.04), higher HF power (P = 0.03), and higher cardiovagal baroreceptor sensitivity (P = 0.003) compared to men at all time points.


We have found sex- and limb-dependent responses where men exhibit higher blood pressure in response to passive arm movement compared to women and compared to leg movement.


Cardiac output Blood pressure Heart rate Heart rate variability Sex differences Mechanoreflex 



Analysis of variance


Cardiovagal baroreceptor sensitivity


Continuous passive motion






Carbon dioxide


High-frequency spectrum


Heart rate


Heart rate variability


Low-frequency spectrum


Ratio of low frequency to high frequency


Mean arterial pressure


Normalized units




Pulse wave velocity


Cardiac output


Cardiac output index


Root mean square of successive differences


Standard deviation of NN intervals



Funding provided by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), Canadian Foundation for Innovation (CFI) and the Ontario Research Fund (ORF). The authors would like to thank Matthew Sem for his help with data analysis.

Author contributions

BF and HE contributed to the conception and design of the work. BF, HJ, and HE contributed to the acquisition, analysis and interpretation of the data and drafting of the work/revising it critically for important intellectual content. All authors read and approved the final version of the manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Kinesiology and Health SciencesYork UniversityTorontoCanada
  2. 2.Muscle Health Research CentreYork UniversityTorontoCanada

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