I highly recommend this book: Stretch to Win. It is a classic and belongs on every shelf. Why? Because stretching can decrease the risk of cardiovascular events such as heart attacks and strokes.
In order to have optimal cardiovascular health, vascular function and arterial stiffness must be addressed. Passive stretching (using stretch bands or your own weight and gravity to get a good stretch) is an effective way to increase central and local blood flow resulting in functional changes in the arteries and decreased arterial stiffness and in decreased blood pressure. The studies indicate that passive stretching induces local and systemic cardiovascular changes.
Ideally, combine passive stretching with aerobic exercise for the most benefit.
Benefits of Passive Stretching:
- Improvement in flow-mediated dilation (an artery’s ability to dilate as a result of increased blood flow)
- Reduction in central and peripheral arterial stiffness
- Increase in blood flow in the legs
- Increase in nitric oxide which dilates blood vessels
- Support of the autonomic nervous system (“Heart failure is a syndrome characterized by upregulation of the sympathetic nervous system and abnormal responsiveness of the parasympathetic nervous system.”)
Tips for Stretching:
- Keep breathing, do not hold your breath.
- Don’t stretch to pain, just mild discomfort.
- East into your stretch and hold it’ no jerking or bouncing.
- Hold stretch for 20-30 seconds, release, repeat several times.
- Stretch warm muscles after a shower or workout.
Passive stretching can be done simply in the comfort of your own home. There are no excuses not to stretch. I also highly recommend getting outside for your daily exercise and stretching routine for the added sunshine and vitamin D exposure.
Ce and colleagues concluded that “passive stretching is a novel non-pharmacological treatment for improving vascular health and reducing overall cardiovascular risk, especially in individuals with limited mobility.” This is a huge finding!