Stretching beats walking when it comes to lowering blood pressure

Stretching is more effective than brisk walking when it comes to lowering blood pressure, according to a new study from the University of Saskatchewan. This isn't the first time a study has found that stretching can benefit those who have high blood pressure or who are at risk of developing it, but this is the first study that has compared the activity to brisk walking.

Generally speaking, people who suffer from hypertension are often advised to engage in brisk walking to help lower it. Stretching may be more beneficial, however, according to the new study. The reason is fairly obvious: stretching your muscles also stretches blood vessels, reducing their stiffness and putting less resistance on blood flow.

Using the same group of participants with a mean age of 61, the study compared the effects of stretching and brisk walking on high blood pressure over the course of eight weeks. One group was tasked with engaging in 30 minutes of whole-body stretching five days a week. The other group did the same, except with brisk walking instead of stretching.

These participants had stage 1 hypertension at the start of the study. The results after eight weeks of stretching found that this activity resulted in a greater reduction in blood pressure across three categories, though the people who engaged in brisk walking benefitted from more mid-section fat loss.

The researchers note that this isn't an either/or scenario — if you're already walking to lower blood pressure, you shouldn't stop. Rather, whole-body stretching can be added to one's daily routine for the added benefits. As well, the researchers say that yoga offers similar blood pressure benefits as stretching, which may make that an option for some people.