Leg stretching may improve blood flow and prevent strokes

In the journals

Published: October, 2020

Not only can regular leg stretching help reduce cramps and muscle strains, it also may be another way to protect against heart disease and stroke. A study published online July 1, 2020, by The Journal of Physiology found that performing simple leg stretches can help improve blood flow throughout the body.

Researchers split 39 healthy people into two groups. One group didn't do any stretching. The other group performed four types of leg stretches five times a week for 12 weeks. The stretches focused on the hip, knee, and ankle. Each stretch was done for 45 seconds with a 15-second recovery. Afterward, the researchers found that the arteries in the lower legs of the stretching group had better blood flow and less stiffness. The stretching group also had lower blood pressure at the end of the study compared with their initial readings.

The researchers speculated that lower-body stretching causes muscles to press on the arteries in the thighs and legs. This makes the body release chemicals that expand the arteries so more blood can enter. The effect also appears to influence arteries in the upper body, as participants showed similar changes in the arteries of their upper arms.

The researchers noted that leg stretching could add extra protection against heart disease, stroke, and even diabetes, all of which are associated with reduced blood flow. They added that leg stretching is especially helpful for high-risk people who have mobility issues and cannot exercise on a regular basis.

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