University of Sask. study shows stretching may help reduce blood pressure more than a brisk walk
SASKATOON -- In a study, published in the Journal of Physical Activity and Health in December, researchers at the University of Saskatchewan found out that stretching has positive health benefits — potentially more than a brisk walk — especially when it comes to blood pressure.
“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.” Co-author of the study and U of S kinesiology professor Dr. Phil Chilibeck said in a news release.
The study was conducted over eight weeks, using two randomly assigned groups of older men and women (mean age 61). The 40 participants were monitored as they compared the benefits of stretching for 30 minutes to a 30-minute walk.
The group assigned to stretch was observed having greater reductions in blood pressure across all three of their measurements: sitting, lying down, and over 24 hours with a portable monitor.
Chilibeck said that although the findings show stretching might have a hand up on a brisk walk when it comes to reducing blood pressure, there's no reason to substitute one for the other.
“I don’t want people to come away from our research thinking they shouldn’t be doing some form of aerobic activity. Things like walking, biking, or cross-country skiing all have a positive effect on body fat, cholesterol levels, and blood sugar," said Chilibeck.
Chilibeck said that those walking to reduce blood pressure should continue to do so, but should consider adding some stretching sessions to their routine.
Due to the lack of difficulty when it comes to stretching, Dr. Chilibeck said that it’s easy to incorporate into a daily routine, and although they studied the benefits of stretching for 30 minutes, he said there are still benefits to shorter sessions, especially involving muscles groups in the legs.
The research team is now seeking funding to conduct a larger study with more participants, with plans to expand the study to explore physiological reasons behind why stretching reduces blood pressure.