STRETCHING IMPROVES CARDIOVASCULAR HEALTH!
Surely, this is must be just another one of “those” eye-rolling statements that are carelessly thrown around by the fitness industry to sell yet another workout fad. Except not. At BBS Training Method™ we have been studying and exploring the topics of stretching, mobility training and movement from all around the globe and we’re well acquainted with the benefits of stretching for better movement, pain management, athletic optimisation, aesthetics, and overall biomechanical health. But this specific link between STRETCHING and CARDIOVASCULAR HEALTH took us completely by surprise.
Of course, the deduction that improved body mobility affects our circulation & oxygen distribution is a plausible consideration - but last night, Dr Robert Schleip shared with us the Kato 2020 study, which shows CLEAR patterns of improvement in cardiovascular health when we stretch.
New Scientific Proof
I spent my birthday in the company of Dr Robert Schleip and Divo Muller, pioneers in the movement of Fascia training and research. I WISH. I actually spent my birthday glued to the screen, watching these two inspiring thought-leaders in movement and training as they unveiled the latest published research.
While we’re still working on a BBS “compendium” on Fascia, based on the courses and studies over the last five years (using our list of recommended readings, experts, courses, and resources), this was one particular takeaway from last night’s seminar that we just COULDN’T WAIT TO SHARE with our readers.
Okay. Stretching improves Cardiovascular Health... But how?
THE STUDY: The Efficacy of Stretching Exercises on Arterial Stiffness
The International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 2020, 17 (16), 5643
Full study available here: https://www.mdpi.com/1660-4601/17/16/5643
(Quote from abstract)"Aerobic exercise is known to reduce arterial stiffness; however, high-intensity resistance exercise is associated with increased arterial stiffness. Stretching exercises are another exercise modality, and their effect on arterial stiffness remains unclear. The purpose of this study was to determine whether stretching exercises reduce arterial stiffness in middle-aged and older adults." THEIR CONCLUSIONS: "Our meta-analyses demonstrated that stretching exercises reduced arterial stiffness, HR, and DBP, and improved endothelial function, which are crucial parameters of arteriosclerosis in middle-aged and older adults." Data from the testing centres including:
Department of Physical Therapy, Shizuoka, Japan
Anti-aging Center, Ginza Hospital, Tokyo
Department of Physical Therapy, Niigata University of Health and Welfare
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN? WHAT HAS CHANGED WITH THIS STUDY?
We already know from previous studies that stretching helps to release the stiffness in your body: your muscles, joints, tendons, and connective tissues (Fascia), but now we know that it has a direct impact on your ARTERIES!
In this study group of adults over the age of 40, stretching showed a significant impact on CARDIOVASCULAR ELASTICITY by REDUCING ARTERIAL STIFFNESS.
Reduced arterial stiffness helps to facilitate the passage of blood through the body’s circulatory system, reducing blood pressure and pulse rate at rest.
Stretching has both a biomechanical effect (a difference in the appearance and behaviour of our tissues) AND a biochemical effect (a chemical change in our body and blood composition).
The hard science hypothesis (AKA special bonus considerations for the sports science geeks) - these changes are suspected to be triggered by reduced sympathetic activation, an increase in fibroblast (cells that make collagen) production in the surrounding fascia, a stimulation of antioxidant enzyme production, and - drum roll please - an ENHANCED PRODUCTION OF NITRIC OXIDE (NO) in the endothelial cells, increasing our ability to absorb and utilise oxygen.
Previous research has shown us that:
Stretching helps you relax
It helps your skin make more collagen
Your body becomes more elastic (organs, tissues, muscles)
You can regenerate cartilage (at a mild intensity of stretching and movement)
It helps you to manage muscular pain (with the correct practice)
This new research shows that stretching:
Helps arteries become more supple and pliable
Reduces the heart rate, reducing the effects of heart disease.
The direct cause has not yet been pinpointed, but it is suspected that our tissue cells are becoming more efficient at absorbing and utilising oxygen when we stretch. Isn’t this amazing? Now you have a MULTITUDE of reasons to head to your stretch/yoga/Pilates/barre/flow/tai chi class!! And one of them is improving your cardiovascular fitness!