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A new study reveals that just 12 weeks of passive stretching could improve blood flow and dilate arteries. Experts believe that the study's findings could be helpful, particularly during the current pandemic, when many are forced to be confined in their homes.

Passive stretching involves an external force, like an accessory or another person, to stretch. On the other hand, active stretching is performed using one's own effort. This exercise alternative could be more attractive to people who might find exercise routines difficult.

In the study, the researchers examined changes in blood vessels. They looked at whether the alterations had implications for diseases, including heart disease. Furthermore, they also tried to form cheap and drug-free treatment programs.

According to Emiliano Ce, one of the authors of the study from the University of Milan, stretching could be relevant during the current pandemic period. He adds the practice would be perfect now when performing beneficial training to improve and prevent heart disease, stroke, and other conditions are limited.

The team has determined that passive stretching is an effective approach to improving vascular function. Moreover, they say it has practical implications for use as an innovative non-pharmacological treatment to reduce cardiovascular risk and improve vascular health.

The full findings of the study were published in The Journal of Physiology on July 1, 2020.

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Pros and Cons of Passive Stretching

Recent studies have reported that acute passive stretching, a common practice in rehabilitation and sports, may bring out positive outcomes on arterial stiffness, structure, and vascular function.

Stretching has been found to loosen the muscles and prepare the body for more intense activities. The researchers focused on passive stretching, which requires the use of an "outside agent" to create a force for the stretch to take place.

However, some fitness experts say that passive stretching exercises are not too effective in adding to a person's flexibility. This is particularly so with experienced athletes who might need more than just passive stretching.

Some specialists say there is also the risk of the external force being stronger than the person is flexible, which could potentially hurt the person being stretched.

Moreover, the authors of the study say that decreased stiffness and increased blood flow may have connotations on conditions such as stroke, heart disease, and diabetes.

The scientists say that if their experiments are tried out in patients with vascular disease, it could tell whether their training method could serve as a new drug-free therapy for reducing disease risk and improving vascular health.

Stretching and Exercise During the Pandemic

In their study, the researchers from the University of Milan found that arteries in both the lower leg and upper arm had increased blood flow and dilation when stimulated. Moreover, they also found a decrease in arterial stiffness.

They also found improvement in blood pressure, arterial stiffness, and vascular function in the arteries of the body parts directly and not directly involved in the passive stretching of the lower limbs.

Experts believe that their study could also reduce the long-term effects of limited mobility, particularly during the coronavirus lockdowns.

Furthermore, passive stretching routines could also be used during hospitalization or after surgery, when mobility is limited. The authors believe that stretching can preserve vascular health when patients can't actively move. Additionally, it can also be performed at home by family members or caregivers.

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