The Easiest Way to Lower Your Blood Pressure, Says Science
High blood pressure is incredibly dangerous as it can heighten your risk of heart disease and stroke. Now, however, during the COVID-19 pandemic, hypertension is even more threatening as studies show it can dramatically increase your risk of dying from the virus.
You may already be implementing some of the habits necessary to fight the potentially deadly condition, such as eating vitamin-rich foods and exercising 30 to 40 minutes a day. Now, researchers have found a way to reduce your risk of hypertension that doesn't involve any extra cardio exertion or complicated changes to your diet. (Related: 15 Underrated Weight Loss Tips That Actually Work).
As it turns out, stretching for a half hour a day is even more effective at lowering your blood pressure than walking.
A study published recently in the Journal of Physical Activity and Health tracked the blood pressure of two groups of 40 older adults with high blood pressure, splitting them into two groups. One group walked briskly for 30 minutes a day, five days a week, and the other group did a program of 21 stretching exercises for the same amount of time. By the end of the eight-week study, the stretchers had experienced greater reductions in their blood pressure than the brisk walkers.
"I hope people can take away the message that stretching is not only good for warming up or preventing muscle injury, but perhaps also for improving your cardiovascular health," the study's corresponding author, Philip Chilibeck, Ph.D., Professor at the University of Saskatchewan's College of Kinesiology, tells Eat This, Not That!
"When you stretch a muscle, you also stretch the blood vessels in the limbs you are stretching. Stretching these blood vessels over time reduces their stiffness, improves blood flow and therefore reduces blood pressure."
If you want add stretching to your exercise routine, Chilibeck recommends, "You could add a 10-15 minutes per day stretching routine where you stretch the large muscle groups (i.e. quadriceps, hamstrings, calf muscles) with stretches that last 30 seconds, two to three times, with 15 seconds rest between stretches."
He points out that you're better off adding stretching to your exercise routine than replacing your aerobic exercise completely, since the combination will yield the most benefits.
For more on how to change your behavior to keep your blood pressure levels healthy, be sure to check out Everything You Need to Know About the DASH Diet.