If you’re looking for an easy way to improve your cardiovascular health, there’s one thing you should start doing every day. And we say it’s simple, it really will take little effort, and it’s been proven to be a great way to boost and even improve your heart health. All you have to do is a little stretching.
A new study published in The Journal of Physiology found that those who did different types of stretches five times a week saw an improvement in overall vascular function throughout their bodies. Basically, this means stretching is good for blood flow and ultimately is good for your heart.
So how did this study work? Well, there were 39 participants who were put into three different groups. One group did a 12-week program in which they took part in five 40-minute sessions each week of bilateral leg, ankle, and foot stretching. Another group did the same exercises, but for just 20-minute sessions, only on the right side of their body. The third group didn’t do any stretching at all.
The Italian researchers looked at blood flow, artery stiffness, and blood pressure in all participants, before and after the stretching programs. The researchers found that those who were in both of the stretching groups had lower blood pressure and less arterial stiffness, and blood flow in the thigh, knee, and arm arteries was increased significantly. Even the arteries in parts of the body not directly affected by the stretching moves saw an improvement when in regards to vascular function, too. Those who were in the group that didn’t do any stretching, not surprisingly, didn’t see any sort of improvement.
Something to keep in mind the researchers found, though, is that within six weeks of stopping the stretching program, the participants’ vascular functions returned to their original levels. So that means consistency is key, and you’ll want to keep up with these daily stretches to truly reap the benefits. (And if you’re looking for more helpful tips, be sure to sign up for our newsletter to get daily recipes and food news in your inbox!)
Dr. Fabio Esposito, dean of the school of exercise science at the University of Milan, and senior author of the study, said that stretching can be especially helpful for those who aren’t able to take part in more intense physical activities. While there are clearly positive outcomes of stretching, he made it clear to point out “we’re not recommending that you substitute stretching for aerobic exercise.” Think of these stretches as an addition to your workout regime that will benefit your heart health in the long-run.