Stretching may improve blood vessel health

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Published: October, 2020

Doing easy leg stretches may improve blood flow throughout the body by making the arteries more flexible and able to dilate, according to a small study in the July 1, 2020, Journal of Physiology.

The study included 39 young adults, 27 of whom did passive leg stretches five times a week for 12 weeks, while the other 12 did no stretching. (Passive stretching involves holding a stretch for a set period of time aided by an outside force, such as one's body weight or gravity). Volunteers held the thigh and calf stretches for 45 seconds, followed a 15-second rest. They repeated each set a total of five times.

Researchers measured blood flow in the participants' lower legs and upper arms at the beginning and end of the study. The arteries of people who stretched were more dilated and had increased blood flow in both areas, they found.

If future studies confirm these results — particularly in older people with vascular disease — passive stretching could become a new nondrug treatment for improving blood vessel health, according to the study authors.

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