As we get older, cardiovascular disease is something that makes its way onto our radar. You’re probably already aware that diet and lifestyle can affect your risk of heart disease. However, research now shows that doing something as simple as stretching for heart health could help you live longer — plus it feels amazing!
Passive Stretching for Heart Health — How it Works
In a new study, researchers from the University of Milan discovered that people who stretched passively for a total of 12 weeks had more blood flow in their arteries and less arterial stiffness than those who didn’t. Authors of the study also noted, “Blood pressure was decreased, central and peripheral arterial stiffness was reduced, and vascular function was increased after 12 weeks of passive stretching training.”
For the study, 39 healthy men and women were split into two groups. For 12 weeks, the control group didn’t do any stretching, and the other group was instructed to do leg stretches five times per week. According to the results, the group that did the leg stretches saw an overall improvement in their vascular health. The researchers say that these findings indicate that activities that regulate blood flow could have serious preventative benefits for those suffering with vascular disease or disfunction.
“Vascular disease” describes any abnormalities of the arteries or blood vessels. When blood isn’t flowing properly through the arteries or blood vessels, you’re more likely to suffer a heart attack, stroke, or blood clot (also called a pulmonary embolism).
This study points to the conclusion that gentle stretching, especially in the legs where some of our major arteries and blood vessels reside, can greatly benefit your heart health. Not only that, but stretching has also been shown to improve things like chronic pain, mobility in the joints, flexibility in the joints and muscles, feelings of stress, and bad posture!
If you don’t know where to start or you’re thinking “I can’t stretch, I’m not flexible,” not to worry. You don’t have to be flexible to begin a gentle stretching routine, and as time goes along, you’ll notice significant improvements in your mobility. We recommend you begin your stretching routine in the evening (it’s super relaxing to do before bed!), but anytime of day works just fine.
Participants in this study performed four different leg and foot stretches for a total of 40 minutes, five times a week. However, if you’re new to stretching, feel free to start off with less time and increase gradually as time goes along. We promise, once you get into a groove with a stretching routine, you’ll end up spending more time doing it than you think — it just feels that good!
To get you started, there are plenty of stretching videos on YouTube which you can access for free. Try this simple 10-minute routine from physiotherapist Michelle Kenway!
Yoga is also a great way to introduce your body to stretching. Check out these bed yoga poses for pain and sleep that will soothe tension and stress away!
Here’s to a healthier heart and a more relaxed you!