Study Finds That Stretching May Lower Blood Pressure

Stretching exercises may help people with hypertension.

A couple stretching on the beach may have reduced hypertension.

(Monkey Business Images / Shutterstock.com)

Extend your arms, bend down, reach to your toes, and hold. Did you know that simple stretching each day may reduce high blood pressure better than a brisk walk? A recent study shows that stretching offers benefits for those with hypertension. So reach down to those toes and rest assured your arteries are enjoying a good stretch too!

This new study from the University of Saskatchewan in Canada was published in December, 2020 in the Journal of Physical Activity and Health. Researchers looked at two groups of people whose average age was 61 and who all had stage 1 hypertension. One group walked briskly for 30 minutes, five days a week, while the second group stretched for the same amount of time. Participants’ blood pressure was measured at different times of the day. Results showed a bigger reduction in blood pressure for those who stretched.

A Japanese study in PLoS ONE has previously proven that men and older women who are inflexible have issues with stiff arteries, however the Canadian study is the first to compare arterial stiffness in those who walk with those who stretch.

Most people assume that stretching is all about muscles, however it does much more. Dr. Phil Chilibeck, co-author of the Canadian study told Eurekalert, “But when you stretch your muscles, you're also stretching all the blood vessels that feed into the muscle, including all the arteries. If you reduce the stiffness in your arteries, there's less resistance to blood flow.” It is this resistance to blood flow that increases blood pressure.

Such resistance is rampant, especially in the American population. The CDC reports that 45 percent of Americans have hypertension or take medicine for hypertension, so many people could benefit from adding this easy routine to their day. In fact, those with hypertension have a high risk of stroke and heart disease, which is the leading cause of death in the US. Taking a few minutes to stretch can go a long way in improving many people’s health.

According to WebMD, most doctors prescribe brisk walking, swimming, biking, and jumping rope to help reduce hypertension. If this is part of your routine, keep it up! Simply add stretching into your workout from the comfort of your home.

“I don't want people to come away from our research thinking they shouldn't be doing some form of aerobic activity. Things like walking, biking, or cross-country skiing all have a positive effect on body fat, cholesterol levels, and blood sugar,” Chilibeck advises. Reducing blood glucose is important in preventing cardiovascular disease, so keep on doing aerobic exercise.

In terms of stretching, Chilibeck recommends stretching the larger leg muscles like the hamstrings and quadriceps. And you do not need to stretch for 30 minutes a day like those in the study; a shorter routine doing hamstring and quad stretches is enough. Practicing yoga is also a great way to stretch your muscles. Here are some very simple stretches to get you started.

Stretching hamstrings
Verywellhealth recommends a good old-fashioned toe touch to stretch your hamstrings. Another great hamstring stretch is a supine stretch. Simply lie on your back on the floor, bend one leg and straighten the other leg, bringing it towards your head. You can use a yoga strap around the ankle of the extended leg to assist stretching further. Repeat with the other leg.

Stretching your quads
Stretching your quadriceps is also very easy. Verywellfit suggests a standing quad stretch. While standing, bend one knee back, and hold the ankle. Pull it as far as you can go and hold for 30 seconds. You may need to hold onto a table to assist you with your balance. Do the other leg, rest and repeat. You can also do this exercise while lying on your side.

Hypertension may be lowered by doing a few easy floor exercises. The best part about stretching is that it takes just a few minutes and does not need specialized equipment. Stretching, like yoga, is calming, centering, and it also relieves tension. If you need more convincing about how easy it is, stretch in your living room while watching your favorite show!

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