Stretch Your Legs to Keep Heart Disease and Diabetes at Bay

July 20, 2020 Updated: July 20, 2020

New research shows how 12 weeks of passive stretching can help to improve blood flow and keep heart disease and diabetes at bay. Published in the Journal of Physiology, the study outlines how stretching can help arteries to dilate, making it easier for blood to flow and decrease stiffness.

Many people are familiar with active stretching, which is done on their own, but passive stretching has been found to offer more health benefits. Passive stretching involves an external force, including another person or gravity performing the stretching. It is known as a type of stretching in which you stay in one position for a set time. You’re able to relax your body while a partner, accessory, or prop intensifies the stretch by putting external pressure on your body. You can also use the floor or a wall.

For the study, researchers at the University of Milan assigned 39 participants into two groups. Participants included both men and women of all ages. The control group did not receive any stretching, whereas the experimental group performed leg stretches five times a week for 12 weeks.

The effect of passive stretching on blood flow locally and in the upper arm was analyzed and it was found that the arteries in both the lower leg and upper arm had increased blood flow and dilation when stimulated, along with decreased stiffness.

Changes in Arteries

These changes in the arteries may lead to implications for health problems such as stroke, diabetes, and heart disease. All these diseases are characterized by changes in blood flow control due to an impaired vascular system.

Emiliano Ce, an author on the paper, said, “This new application of stretching is especially relevant in the current pandemic period of increased confinement to our homes, where the possibility of performing beneficial training to improve and prevent cardiovascular disease, stroke, and other conditions is limited.”

Researchers hope these findings could serve as a new drug-free treatment for improving vascular health and reducing disease risk, especially in people with lower mobility. It is also thought that stretching may be used during hospitalization or after surgical interventions.

In this time of quarantine, it is more important than ever to keep active. As many people are not keeping as physically active as they usually would, health professionals are stressing the importance of finding new ways to stay healthy. Stretching is a great way to stay healthy, improve flexibility, and help keep blood flowing.

Mat Lecompte is a freelance health and wellness journalist. This article was first published on Bel Marra Health.