Stretching is better than walking for people with hypertension.
Anytime you are stretching, you are doing a great exercise, and the study confirms it is better than walking, especially for people with hypertension. According to a study by the University of Saskatchewan, new research suggests that stretching is better than walking for people with hypertension.
Whether you’re striding into the new year resolved to up your daily step count or keen to lift some weights, you might want to think about adding some stretching to your day, too.
New research suggests that stretching might be more effective than brisk walking at lowering high blood pressure for people with hypertension.
“Everyone thinks that stretching is just about stretching your muscles,” said Phil Chilibeck, who studies biomechanics and human movement (kinesiology) at the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon, Canada.
“But when you stretch your muscles, you’re also stretching all the blood vessels that are connected to your muscles; including all the arteries.”
Stretching reduces the stiffness in your arteries, meaning there’s less resistance to blood flow, which may result in lower blood pressure.
High blood pressure is the leading cause of cardiovascular failure.
High blood pressure is a leading risk factor for cardiovascular diseases, which are the number one cause of death globally.
Though it can be difficult, people can do plenty of things to bring their blood pressure down, reducing their salt intake, drinking less alcohol, or spending time with family and friends.
And perhaps we could add stretching exercises to the list, too.
Previous studies have shown how stretching can improve blood flow to muscles and tissues in animals and people. One trial also found stretching was an effective way for women (with normal blood pressure) to reduce blood pressure during pregnancy, more so than walking.
Not to mention that stretching strengthens connective tissue, improves flexibility, and helps our bodies adapt to increasing exercise.
In this study, stretching went head-to-head against brisk walking in an eight-week trial involving people with moderately elevated blood pressure.
Nearly forty men and women, averaging 61 years old, completed the trial. The participants didn’t know what the trial was testing, only that they had to complete their assigned exercises, either stretching or walking.
One group did a 30-minute stretching session five times a week, while the others went walking for the same amount of time and at a brisk pace to elevate their heart rate.
The research team measured participants’ blood pressure before and after the eight-week program. The research team measured blood pressure in three ways, first when people were seated (like you would be in a doctor’s office), lying down in the supine position (which may be more precise for measuring hypertension) and over 24 hours using a portable blood pressure monitor.
Both groups of participants had similar dietary salt intakes. Study participants didn’t reduce their typical physical activity to make time for the extra exercise but rather added it to their usual routine.
After eight weeks, and with blood pressure readings adjusted to baseline and averaged for each group, stretchers had more significant reductions in their blood pressure compared to walkers by some measures, but not all.
“This finding is important as it offers people a greater number of exercise options for reducing blood pressure,” the authors wrote in their paper.
As for how exactly stretching lowers high blood pressure, that still needs further investigation.
Aside from easing blood flow, it might have something to do with the slow controlled breathing that naturally accompanies stretching. Breathing exercises in yoga practices have been linked to lower blood pressure, but this also means it would be difficult to separate the effects of breathing from stretching itself.
The study participants were only supervised a few times a week, so we have to take them at their word that they completed the other sessions to the same standard.
We also need to recognize that the trial recruited a relatively small group of men and women, and only 35 completed the full eight-week program.
Beyond this, we can’t say if stretching had a sustained effect because the benefits might fade as soon as people stopped stretching, and we all know it can be hard to make new habits stick.
But above all, these findings are no reason to slow down on other forms of exercise.
In this small study, the walking group managed to reduce their waistlines more so than those stretching, which shows it’s still a good idea to get the heart pumping with aerobic exercises, such as walking.
“Things like walking, biking, or cross-country skiing all have a positive effect on body fat, cholesterol levels, and blood sugar,” says Chilibeck, who along with his co-authors concluded it might be best to add a stretching routine to aerobic exercise for your overall heart health.
At the very least, this research might be the nudge we need to incorporate an activity we can do rain, hail, or shine.