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Stretching Exercises Can Help Reduce Blood Pressure

An recent study from University of Saskatchewan researchers found that stretching exercises were better than brisk walking for lowering high-normal blood pressure or moderately elevated blood pressure. However, walking was more effective than stretching for reducing waist size.

The researchers randomly assigned 40 male and female adults (average age 61 years) with high normal or moderate hypertension (130/85–159/99 mm Hg) to either 8 weeks of whole body stretching exercises or brisk walking (on outdoor trails or a treadmill) for 30 minutes per day, 5 days a week, for 8 weeks. The stretching exercise routine included 21 exercises for the shoulders, chest, legs, arms, hips, and back. Each stretch was done twice and held for a 30-second duration with 15 seconds of rest between stretches.

Other studies have also found stretching exercises effective in reducing blood pressure. A possible reason is that when muscles are stretched, blood vessels are also stretched, and this may lead to structural changes in blood vessels. By reducing arterial stiffness, there is improved blood flow, and ultimately reduced blood pressure.

The researchers suggested adding stretching exercises to an aerobic exercise program or brisk walking for additional health benefits. By the way, stretching exercises are similar to yoga, which also lowers blood pressure.

From Medical Xpress: Stretching more effective than walking to lower high blood pressure, study finds

A new University of Saskatchewan study has found that stretching is superior to brisk walking for reducing blood pressure in people with high blood pressure or who are at risk of developing elevated blood pressure levels. 

Walking has long been the prescription of choice for physicians trying to help their patients bring down their blood pressure. High blood pressure (hypertension) is a leading risk factor for cardiovascular disease and among the top preventable risk factors affecting overall mortality.

This new finding, published December 18, 2020 in the Journal of Physical Activity and Health, shows that stretching should be part of a well-rounded treatment plan for people wrestling with hypertension.

"Everyone thinks that stretching is just about stretching your muscles," said kinesiology professor Dr. Phil Chilibeck (Ph.D.), a co-author of the study. "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," he said, noting that resistance to blood flow increases blood pressure.

While the study protocol had participants stretching for 30 minutes at a time, Chilibeck suspects the same benefits can be achieved by doing a shorter routine that emphasizes the larger muscle groups in the legs, particularly the quadriceps and hamstrings. Yoga produces similar reductions in blood pressure, he said.

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