Many people think stretching is just about releasing tightness in muscle or tissue. However when you’re stretching muscle, you’re also stretching vessels that feed into the muscle, including the arteries. Aerobic exercise is commonly recommended for improving heart health however recent studies have found stretching may also be effective as it can improve vascular function and reduce arterial stiffness - major risk factors for cardiovascular disorders in our society.
A recent study by the University of Milan found that those who engaged in a 12 week passive stretching programme saw an improvement to their vascular system. They stated “this could have implications for diseases that involve changes to blood flow, such as heart attack and stroke”.
Another study by researchers at the University of Saskatchewan found regular stretching may be more effective than brisk walks for combating hypertension. Their conclusion “ If stretching can reduce blood pressure, it would allow an additional option for people who need to reduce blood pressure, or it could be added to aerobic exercise routines to provide greater reduction in blood pressure.”
I’ve been designing and offering yoga classes, workshops, retreats and programmes for over 20 years and have watched just how beneficial a regular yoga practice can be for overall wellbeing. I am sure many of you will agree yoga is more than stretching. However, as evidence on the effectiveness of stretching grows it may not only change cardiac rehab, and other aspects of rehabilitation from vascular disease, it may also attract more people to step on the mat. As many of us already know, that is the first step on a empowering journey to transformation.
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