A thorough stretch may seem like second nature before and after a workout, but less natural while watching TV or during working hours. According to a recent study, though, it might be time to increase those bendy habits. The study published in The Journal of Physiology says stretching the legs at least five times a week may lower cardiovascular disease risks.
In the study, a group of 39 men and women were split into two groups. One group didn’t participate in any stretching, and the other group performed leg stretches five times a week for 12 weeks.
The study focused specifically on passive stretching of the legs. Passive stretching is any stretch that requires an external force, such as a partner, a training band, or even gravity. Barre stretches—which require a bar or chair to balance on—are an example of passive stretching. As would a quad stretch, where you hold your foot behind your leg.
After the 12 weeks ended, the passive stretching group showed a significant improvement in blood flow, dilation of the arteries, and stiffness. The changes were noticeable in both the upper arm and the lower leg.
Since stiff arteries and poor blood flow increase the risk of heart disease and stroke, the researchers suggest performing passive leg stretches at least five days a week can lower those risks.
“This new application of stretching is especially relevant in the current pandemic period of increased confinement to our homes,” study author Emiliano Ce, Ph.D., said in a news release, “where the possibility of performing beneficial training to improve and prevent heart disease, stroke and other conditions is limited.”
The study featured healthy individuals, and further research should also look at patients with preexisting cardiovascular issues. This will help determine whether or not passive stretching can serve as a natural preventive treatment for cardiovascular risks.