Stretching May Be Better than Walking for Blood Pressure

For many of us stuck at home during the pandemic, we worry about our health. We want to get out and exercise more. But we’re concerned about our safety. Or, local rules can make it hard to access parks. But, recent research might be good news for folks who worry about hypertension.

A study has found that regular stretching might be more effective than brisk walks for lowering hypertension. The researchers stressed that aerobic exercise has many health benefits but, for blood pressure specifically, stretching appeared to be better. They looked at 30 minutes a day, five days a week of either walking or stretching. The people who stretched had better results.

That’s excellent news for those of us who have a hard time getting out for a walk. No matter what the weather is outside, you can still stretch indoors. It doesn’t matter if it’s daylight or nighttime. You don’t have to worry about people seeing you exercise. And, maybe best of all, it doesn’t put strain on your joints the same way walking can. That can be a huge benefit for some folks.

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,” said the study’s co-author Dr. Phil Chilibeck of the Univ. of Saskatchewan.

The research took place over two months. The people who walked saw a more pronounced reduction in their waistline. Walking definitely has great benefits and is excellent exercise; it just doesn’t help blood pressure as much. This is the first study to tests stretching against walking under the same circumstances in one group. That allowed the researchers to get a very clear set of results.

I don’t want people to come away from our research thinking they shouldn’t be doing some form of aerobic activity,” said Dr. Chilibeck. “Things like walking, biking or cross-country skiing all have a positive effect on body fat, cholesterol levels and blood sugar.”

You might wonder how stretching helps blood pressure. Stretching doesn’t just help your muscles. “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,” explained Dr. Chilibeck.

This research is heartening news for us during the pandemic and beyond. Even in your everyday life, it can be hard to get a walk into your daily routine. Fitting in some stretching doesn’t have to be difficult as you can stretch as you do other things! Start stretching now and, by the time we’re all vaccinated, it will just be a part of your day.

Banner image: Tamba Budiarsana via Pexels
March 03, 2021
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