Passive stretching helps improve blood flow by making it easier for arteries to dilate and decreasing their stiffness, reveals a recent study published in The Journal of Physiology.
The researchers at the University of Milan observed changes in the blood vessels by administering the study cohort to undergo 12 weeks of easy-to-administer passive stretching. The results could have positive implications on conditions like heart disease, suggest the researchers.
Passive stretching is a type of stretching in which a partner, accessory, or prop intensifies the stretch by putting external pressure on an individual’s body.
The team assigned 39 healthy participants of both sexes to two groups. The experimental group performed leg stretches 5 times a week for 12 weeks while the control group did not undergo any stretching.
Evaluating the effect of passive stretching on the blood flow locally and in the upper arm, the researchers observed that the arteries in both the lower leg and upper arm had increased blood flow and dilation when stimulated, along with decreased stiffness.
The changes may have implications for diseases such as heart disease, stroke and diabetes as they are characterized by changes in blood flow control, due to an impaired vascular system, say the authors.
Moreover, stretching may also be used during hospitalisation or after surgical interventions, in order to preserve the vascular health when patients have low mobility. It can be also performed at home by carers or family members.
The authors recommended that the study needs to be replicated in patients with vascular disease to further identify whether or not the training method could serve as a new drug-free treatment for improving vascular health and reducing disease risk, especially in people with lower mobility.