Is stretching better than walking for reducing blood pressure?

 

Is stretching better than walking for reducing blood pressure?

 

It has been revealed that stretching could be better for reducing your blood pressure than walking. Co-author of the new study, Dr. Phil Chilibeck, Ph.D. says “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.”

The study showed that 30 minutes of stretching 5 days a week over a two-month period was more effective at reducing blood pressure than a 30 minute walk 5 days a week over the same time period.

However, walking did result in more significant weight loss for the participants, and so Dr. Chilibeck states that people who already walk should continue to do so, but consider incorporating stretching into their routine.

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

 

Widespread condition

 

Around 45% of adults in the United States have hypertension. Doctors tend to recommend aerobic exercise aerobic exercise to reduce blood pressure, but it has been previously suggested that stretching could lower blood pressure by reducing the stiffness of the arteries, therefore improving blood flow.

The researchers of the new study aimed to compare the effects of stretching and walking on the participants’ blood pressure.

40 males and females were randomly assigned to 30 minutes of either stretching exercises or walking, and were instructed to complete their exercise 5 days a week for 8 weeks.

Participants had an average age of 61 years, and all had either high-normal blood pressure or stage I hypertension.

The stretching program consisted of 21 different exercises which were to be performed twice each with a 30 second hold, and 15 seconds of rest between each stretch.

The walking group were asked to monitor their pulse, and if it fell short of 50-65% of the maximal heart rate for their age, they were to quicken their pace.

All participants’ blood pressure was measured both at the start and end of the 8 week study period using three methods: with a sphygmomanometer while the person was sitting, with a sphygmomanometer while the person was lying down, and with an automatic blood pressure monitor which took readings every 20 minutes during waking hours and every 45 minutes during sleep.

12 different blood pressure measurements were taken from each participant in total, and it was revealed that stretching was associated with greater blood pressure reductions across five of these measurements. The other seven showed no difference between walking and stretching.

 

Additional option

 

The participants in the study did not differ in their overall physical activity levels outside of the assigned exercise period, which suggests that the participants didn’t compensate by adjusting their usual activity levels.

The authors conclude “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.”

Chilibeck also noted that stretching has a variety of advantages over walking, such as it being quick and easy to incorporate into a daily routine and can be done anywhere. It also does not put any strain on the joints.

“Everyone thinks that stretching is just about stretching your muscles,” he explains. “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 authors also noted that research suggests that yoga and Pilates can also reduce blood pressure, but these practices involve other types of muscle contraction. Yoga also incorporates breath control and meditation, which have also been shown to reduce blood pressure.

 

Plans for future research

 

Limitations of the study were noted, as the sample size was small with 19 people in the stretching group and 16 in the walking group. The researchers have suggested that they wish to conduct a larger study in future, as well as investigate possible physiological mechanisms behind the effect of stretching on blood pressure.

 

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