Do you have a client who experiences difficulty executing the sit-and-reach test? If so, inadequate flexibility may not be the only issue plaguing him. A study published in the American Journal of Physiology—Heart and Circulatory Physiology (October 2009; [297], 1314–18) found that persons over 40 who experience limited trunk flexibility may also suffer from arterial stiffness. The study included 526 nonobese adults aged 20–83 years with no known chronic disease. The participants were instructed to perform the sit-and-reach test on the floor, legs straight and with the back against the wall. This was followed by blood pressure measurements and a test to determine how fast the pulse was flowing through the body. According to the results, trunk flexibility was a good indicator of arterial stiffness among participants aged 40 and above. The same was not true for the younger age group. The participants with higher levels of cardiovascular fitness tended to have greater muscular and arterial flexibility.

Since arterial stiffness is considered a risk factor for mortality and cardiovascular disorders, the sit-and-reach test may help highlight health concerns that lie beneath the surface. “Our findings have potentially important clinical implications because trunk flexibility can be easily evaluated,” stated study author Kenta Yamamoto. “This simple test might help to prevent age-related arterial stiffening.” The authors also suggested that improvements in trunk flexibility may play a role in improving age-related arterial elasticity. “We believe that flexibility exercise, such as stretching, yoga and Pilates, should be integrated as a new recommendation into the known cardiovascular benefits of regular exercise.”