Stretching can help lower high blood pressure, study shows

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  • Brisk walking has always been seen as a good way to reduce blood pressure
  • However, researchers have found that stretching is a better method
  • Stretching is also beneficial for those who are still only at risk of developing high blood pressure

High blood pressure is one of the leading risk factors for developing heart and kidney disease, and can even be fatal. 

Effective measures to control this condition is, therefore, of vital importance, and existing evidence suggests that increasing physical activity can bring down blood pressure.

Now, a new study from the University of Saskatchewan (USask) found that stretching may be a better way of lowering blood pressure than walking. 

Stretching as part of treatment plan 

Researchers recruited 40 men and women with elevated blood pressure (over the age of 61) to conduct the first-ever study to compare walking and stretching with one another.

Participants were assigned to two groups for eight weeks, with one doing 30-minute brisk walking for five days a week, and the other a stretching routine for the same amount of time. 

The participants’ blood pressure was also measured before and after the study in three different ways: lying down, sitting up, and over 24 hours using a portable monitor.

The subsequent results of the comparative test indicated that across all the methods of measuring blood pressure, stretching lowered hypertension levels more than brisk walking.

Don’t stop walking, just add stretching to the routine

Dr Phil Chilibeck, co-author of the study, explains that if hypertension patients are already practising brisk walking to lower blood pressure levels, they should continue walking and just add stretching to their routine.

“If stretching exercise can, indeed, reduce blood pressure, it would allow an additional option for people who need to reduce blood pressure, or it could be added to aerobic exercise routines to provide greater reduction in blood pressure,” the researchers explain in their paper.

Dr Chilibeck went on to say, “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. If you reduce the stiffness in your arteries, there's less resistance to blood flow."

The researchers noted that stretching is easy to incorporate into our daily lives. “When you're relaxing in the evening, instead of just sitting on the couch, you can get down on the floor and stretch while you're watching TV,” they stated.

Image credit: Unsplash

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