If you’re aware you need to lower your blood pressure reading, do you have enough impetus to do the work? What if the task wasn’t as arduous as you once thought it would be? Could stretching really be all that it takes? The University of Saskatchewan, Canada, found that stretching can reduce blood pressure readings more than brisk walking. Dr Phil Chilibeck (PhD), co-author of the study, said: “Everyone thinks that stretching is just about stretching your muscles.
“But when you stretch your muscles, you’re also stretching all the blood vessels that feed into the muscle, including all the arteries.”
Dr Chilibeck explained: “If you reduce the stiffness in your arteries, there’s less resistance to blood flow.”
In effect, resistance to blood flow would lower blood pressure, he noted.
The eight-week trial involved 40 older men and women who, on average, were 61 years of age.
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All participants had elevated blood pressure, or stage one hypertension, when the trial began.
The volunteers were randomly separated into two groups for the duration of the study.
One did a whole-body stretching routine for 30 minutes a day, five days a week.
The other group walked briskly for the same amount of time and frequency.
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Participants had their blood pressure measured while sitting, lying down and over 24 hours using a portable monitor before and after the trial.
Stretching resulted in bigger reductions in blood pressure across all three types of measurement.
Chilibeck noted that the same reduction in blood pressure readings can also be observed in those who do yoga.
With the cold weather outside, going out for a brisk walk may be less appealing for some people.
Stretching, on the other hand, can be done in the comfort of your own home – so it’s a win-win solution.
Aside from the benefits of stretching – as well as it being easy to do – those who did engage in brisk walking lost more body fat off their waists.
“I don’t want people to come away from our research thinking they shouldn’t be doing some form of aerobic activity,” added Dr Chilibeck.
“Things like walking, biking, or cross-country skiing all have a positive effect on body fat, cholesterol levels, and blood sugar.”
Published in the Journal of Physical Activity and Health, the findings imply that stretching should be part of a well-rounded treatment plan for those with high blood pressure (i.e. hypertension).
Chilibeck and colleagues are now seeking further funding to complete the trial on a larger group of people.
If you’d like to reduce your blood pressure readings, the NHS advises you to improve your diet.
This can be achieved by cutting down on salt, saturated fats, caffeine and alcohol.
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