When it comes to stretching, you probably know that it’s great to do before and after a workout to stay flexible, help muscles recover, and prevent injury. But new research has stumbled upon another great benefit: it can actually lower your blood pressure and improve your overall cardiovascular health.
How does high blood pressure affect your health?
High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, is a condition that affects nearly half of all American adults, according to the Centers for Disease Control. It puts additional pressure on artery walls, and over time, it can lead to heart attacks, aneurysms, and heart failure.
Moreover, it can cause weakened blood vessels in various part of the body, which in turn create additional problems for those organs, like kidney failure and vision loss.
A healthy diet and regular exercise regimen have long been credited for lowering blood pressure, but there are additionally lifestyle changes that also make a big difference. Enter stretching.
What does the research say about stretching?
In a recent study conducted by the University of Saskatchewan and published in the Journal of Physical Activity and Health, 40 participants who were around the age of 60 and all diagnosed with high blood pressure, were split into two groups. One group stretched for 30 minutes five days per week, while the other group took brisk walks for the same frequency over the course of eight weeks.
Scientists found by the end of the experiment that people who spent that time stretching had lower blood pressure readings than those who’d walked over the previous two months.
The researchers aren’t arguing that people with high blood pressure should stop working out entirely in favor of stretching. After all, exercises, like walking, have numerous other physical and mental benefits, including keeping muscles strong, managing your weight, and promoting an overall sense of well-being. Instead, they see stretching as a crucial part of an exercise routine that also promotes heart health.
And if there’s a day or two where you just can’t go out and get your blood pumping, it’s good to know that half an hour of stretching still has its own benefits. Try going through a gentle yoga sequence or basic stretch routine that may resemble something you did in gym class. The other great aspect of stretching is that you can use it as a quiet moment of introspection or you can turn on music, a TV show or movie, audiobook, or podcast while you stretch. Regardless, it makes a difference!