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We’ve all heard about the benefits of exercise and its positive effects on lowering blood pressure. Regular walking has been the hallmark for lowering blood pressure by reducing the stiffness in the blood vessels so blood can flow easier.
But would you believe there may be an even easier way?
A surprising finding from an international study of 40 people shows that stretching is superior to brisk walking for people diagnosed with high blood pressure or people at risk…
Stretch, walk or both?
The research examined 40 men and women with a mean age of 61 and divided them into two groups for the 8-week study. The participants all had stage 1 hypertension.
Before the study, Dr. Phil Chilibeck, Ph.D., kinesiology professor and co-author, and his colleagues measured the blood pressure of the participants over 24 hours with a portable monitor in sitting and lying positions.
The first group stretched their whole body for 30 minutes daily for 5 days weekly and the second group walked briskly for the same time and frequency.
The group who stretched saw bigger changes in blood pressure across all three types of measurement. However, the walkers lost more body fat from their waist. So, you can imagine what walking and stretching could do!
Dr. Chilibeck suggested that positive benefits could be achieved in a shorter routine emphasizing larger leg muscles such as quadriceps and hamstrings. There have been several research studies suggesting with regular practice, yoga may modestly reduce high blood pressure.
Why stretching is important
Why does stretching improve blood pressure? According to Easy Health Options editor, Virginia Tims-Lawson, one of the researched benefits of even just passive stretching is reduced arterial stiffness, which certainly could explain better blood pressure. And passive stretching is about as easy as it gets!
Dr. Chilibeck and colleagues are looking to expand the scope beyond blood pressure in future studies and further explore some of the other physiological effects of stretching. It couldn’t come at a better time…
With more people working from home these days, sitting in a chair all day and getting out very little, we can’t help but be reminded of the dangers of a sedentary lifestyle, much less what tight muscles do to your mobility. Tight hamstrings make it more difficult to get the full range of motion of your knees and legs, which inhibits walking. Adding regular stretching to your daily schedule helps keep muscles, long, lean and more flexible.
As we get older it becomes more important to stretch because flexibility naturally declines over time. The areas that lose the most flexibility are the shoulders, hips, spine and knees.
And, according to Dr. Chilibeck, stretching is super easy to incorporate into your daily routine. You’re not at the mercy of the weather and it’s easy on your joints, which is a big plus for people with osteoarthritis. It doesn’t require a big commitment of time, another barrier to exercise for many people. “When you’re relaxing in the evening, instead of just sitting on the couch, you can get down on the floor and stretch while you’re watching TV,” he said.
7 additional benefits of stretching
- Increased flexibility
- Increased range of motion
- Improves your posture
- Helps to heal and prevent back pain
- Improved performance in physical activities
- Decreased tension headaches
- Gives your mind a mental break
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