Stretching is commonly known to increase flexibility and reduce muscle stiffness, but it may also have positive effects on blood vessels. A recent study from the University of Milan found that a 12-week stretching regimen improved blood flow, reduced blood pressure, and decreased the stiffness of arteries. This is significant because good blood flow can lower the risk of heart attacks and strokes, and people with stiff arteries are more likely to have high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and inflammation.
The study involved 40 men and women who were divided into three groups. One group performed leg, ankle, and foot stretches 5 times a week for 40 minutes, another group only stretched one side of the body, and the third group did not stretch at all. After 12 weeks, the participants in the stretching groups showed significant improvement in the health of their blood vessels, specifically in the decreased stiffness and better function of their arteries.
The study participants used a form of stretching called passive stretching, which can be easily done at home using stretch bands or your own body weight. Although stretching can help blood vessel function, researchers noted that it may not have the same benefit on the heart muscle as aerobic exercises like running, walking or cycling. However, stretching is a good alternative when limited to home-based activities during the COVID-19 pandemic. Below is an image of the passive stretching training. (Ref. Link)
Stretching has been shown to improve heart health in several ways. Here’s how stretching has a direct impact on your heart health.
The American Council on Exercise recommends these three stretches for beginners:
Stretching has been shown to reduce arterial stiffness, improve endothelial function, lower blood pressure, lower heart rate, and reduce muscle tension, which can all contribute to improved heart health.
It is recommended to stretch at least two to three times per week for at least 10 to 30 seconds per stretch.
Stretching should not be harmful to heart health when done correctly. It is important to avoid overstretching and to stop if you feel pain. It’s best to consult with your doctor before starting any exercise program, particularly if you have heart disease.
There are no specific stretches that have been proven to be better for heart health than others. However, stretches that focus on the legs and torso are beneficial for improving circulation.
Stretching can improve heart health, but it should not be considered a substitute for aerobic exercise, which is necessary for a healthy heart. A combination of stretching and aerobic exercise is best for overall heart health.
Other Heart Health Topics To Explore:
Stress impact on Women’s Heart | Paroxysmal Atrial Fibrillation | Arrhythmia Causes | Aquatic Exercise for Heart Health | Yoga for Heart Health | AFib Symptoms | Average heart Rate While Running | Acid Reflux | Increased Heart Rate | Heart Rate Monitor Device