Everyone knows stretching is good for your body, but did you know that a specific type of stretching—namely passive stretching—could improve circulation, prevent diabetes, and help your heart stay healthy? And it’s not as difficult or time-consuming as you think.
Research shows passive stretching helps a variety of health issues
New research published in the Journal of Physiology suggests that 12 weeks of passive stretching results in better artery dilation and decreased arterial stiffness.
39 healthy participants were split into two groups. The control group did not do any stretching, while the experimental group did leg stretches five times a week for 12 weeks. Blood flow was then measured in the upper arm and lower leg. Both areas showed signs of better dilation and blood flow and less stiffness when stimulated with passive stretching.
What is passive stretching?
When you think about stretching, you may think of something called active stretching, which is a type of stretching an individual performs on their own. It involves activating one muscle group to stretch out another, such as when you lift your arms as far as you can above your head or when you perform that classic morning back stretch while lying bed.
Passive stretching, on the other hand, involves an external force, such as pressure from another person or the force of gravity, stretching your limbs for you. It allows you to relax into the stretch more while that other force holds your limb in the right position. Often, passive stretches can be held for a longer period of time.
Examples of passive stretching
The supine single leg stretch is an example of a passive stretch. To perform this stretch, lie on your back with one leg straight in the air. You can put your hands behind your thigh or use an elastic band around your foot to hold external pressure on the limb. Hold for up to one minute, then switch legs.
Another example is the standing quadriceps stretch. Using a wall or another solid object for balance if needed, lift one foot behind you and grab onto your ankle, gently pulling your foot in toward your buttocks. Hold for one minute, then switch legs. You can also perform this stretch with the help of a partner by lying on your stomach and allowing your partner to bend your leg and press your foot gently toward your buttocks.
If you’re using a prop, such as an elastic band or a chair or stair, or a partner to help you stretch, your stretch is probably passive. Also, if you’re using your hands or another part of your body to hold the limb in place, it is likely passive stretching.
What could passive stretching do for me?
The blood vessel changes noted in this study have implications for a variety of diseases, such as diabetes and heart disease. If you suffer from one of these diseases or are at risk for them (perhaps due to a family history), you can improve your health and reduce your risk of disease using passive stretching.
“This new application of stretching is especially relevant in the current pandemic period of increased confinement to our homes, where the possibility of performing beneficial training to improve and prevent heart disease, stroke and other conditions is limited,” said Emiliano Ce, one of the study’s authors.
Passive stretching is also a great way to improve your flexibility and build muscle! Happy stretching, friends!
Elizabeth Nelson is a wordsmith, an alumna of Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, a four-leaf-clover finder, and a grammar connoisseur. She has lived in west Michigan since age four but loves to travel to new (and old) places. In her free time, she. . . wait, what’s free time?