The Real Reason Stretching Can Lower Blood Pressure

An alarming 108 million people in the United States (that's nearly half of Americans), have some sort of hypertension or take medication for hypertension. And of those, just 24 percent feel their blood pressure is under control (via the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). Regulated blood pressure is vital to helping prevent stroke and heart disease, as the higher the pressure, the more limited the blood flow is to the organs, and the more stressed the heart becomes (per Harvard Health Publishing). According to the Mayo Clinic, there are many ways to maintain healthy levels, from exercise and a low sodium diet, to reducing stress and avoiding smoking, simple lifestyle changes can help reduce your risk for hypertension. 

According to Science Alert, recent research suggests that those with normal blood pressure or stage one hypertension may benefit from stretching more than walking. An eight-week study, published in January 2021 in The Journal of Physical Activity and Health consisting of 40 men and women in their late 50s and early 60s with slightly high blood pressure, showed a more prominent reduction of blood pressure in the group that stretched as opposed to the group of walkers. 

How stretching helps reduce blood pressure

One of the authors of the study, Phil Chilibeck, Ph.D., writes in the official study paper, that when you're stretching, you actually stretch your arteries as well as your muscles, which can open them up more, allowing for better blood flow. Dr. Chilibeck and the other researchers referenced a few other studies while researching, and found that people with poor flexibility had a higher rate of arterial stiffening. In turn, Dr. Chilibeck and colleagues believe that stretching can decrease arterial narrowing and increase vascular resistance, both of which can reduce blood pressure.

The studies involving the relationship between stretching and heart disease are promising, but Dr. Chilibeck believes more research is needed. There are many benefits of stretching in addition to a regular exercise routine, including strengthening connective tissues, but stretching should not be used alone when trying to reduce your risk of heart disease. The study's authors suggest adding daily stretching to a cardio routine for optimal results.