January 15, 2021

Stretching May Be The Next Best Thing For The Heart

Controlling blood pressure is critical for whole-body health and well-being.

Our world is continually surprising us, in both good and bad ways. And though we may not feel it immediately, our body responds. With the constant stream of disturbing news and the tense political environment, blood pressures are on the rise.

With the constant stream of disturbing news and the tense political environment, blood pressures are on the rise.

Many people dismiss high blood pressure as a harmless condition. But it's well-known that high blood pressure, or hypertension, is the impetus for more serious health conditions - diseases that affect the heart, kidneys, and brain. Controlling blood pressure is critical for whole-body health and well-being.
Several factors contribute to a stellar blood pressure reading, but exercise is one of the most influential. Exercise comes in many shapes and sizes and affects the body in varying ways. In a recent article published in the Journal of Physical Activity and Health, a group of researchers looked specifically at how stretching affects blood pressure.
World Health Organization Vitamin D

Stretching may reduce blood pressure in people with normal or high blood pressure. Photo Credit.

The study included 40 men and women with normal to high blood pressure or stage 1 hypertension. The participants were divided into two exercise groups: walking or stretching. The stretching group did 21 different stretches of the neck, shoulders, arms, legs, back, and hips. Each stretch was done twice and held for 30 seconds. The participants in the walking group walked for 30 minutes in an outdoor walking trail or on a treadmill.
With blood pressure measured at varying times and different body positions, they found that stretching was more effective at reducing blood pressure than walking. Walking, however, was more effective at decreasing waist circumference.

A Big Stretch

It's clear why aerobic exercises like walking, running, or cycling can reduce blood pressure. But what gives with stretching? As it turns out, stretching can affect the elasticity of both muscles and arteries.

Along with reduced arterial stiffness, the study also found that stretching also reduced heart rate and diastolic blood pressure.

Another analysis published in The International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health in 2020 found that stretching can reduce the stiffness of arteries - the blood vessels that deliver blood from the heart to the rest of the body. The studies analyzed included a mix of people, both with and without other health conditions, like heart disease. Along with reduced arterial stiffness, the study also found that stretching reduced heart rate and diastolic blood pressure.

Health at Home/Work/School

The pandemic has forced gym-goers to switch to home workouts. And just like toilet paper, dumbbells and kettlebells quickly sold out. Though stretching isn't what first comes to mind when we think of exercise, it certainly carries its weight when it comes to convenience and body benefits. As already mentioned, stretching is great for the whole body, can be done anywhere, and equipment optional. Even the workaholics have no excuse given the many options of stretches that can be done at the desk.
Here's a guide to help put a little more stretch and exercise in your day, courtesy of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. The activities recommended in this guide...

Range from simple activities, such as stretching and office workouts, to more complex activities, such as pantomimes.

Can be done individually or in groups.

Most require little to no equipment or training and many can be done right at your desk.

Can be fun.

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