Source: The Physiological Society
Summary: Researchers found that regular muscular stretching, when performed five times per week, for four weeks, increases blood flow to muscles of the lower leg.
Despite the well-known beneficial effects of exercise, the proportion of elderly people participating in regular exercise programmes is low, often due to the strenuous nature of exercise training. In particular, elderly people with reduced mobility and weak muscles are often less likely to take part in an exercise. Muscle stretching is widely performed as a warm-up or cool-down and is low intensity compared to aerobic exercise. Researchers from Florida State University, Kansas State University and the University of Electro-communications in Tokyo found that regular muscular stretching, when performed five times per week, for four weeks, increases blood flow to muscles of the lower leg. They also found that regular muscular stretching improves the function of arteries in the muscles of the lower legs, and increases the number of capillaries within stretched muscles. The study findings were published in the Journal of Physiology.
This suggests that for individuals with limited mobility, regular muscular stretching could improve blood flow to muscles. This has particularly important implications for elderly people with lower leg problems for whom walking is difficult due to pain or lack of mobility. The team carried out the research by placing splints on the lower limb of aged rats so that the calf muscles were stretched while the splint was in place. Splints were placed on one leg for thirty minutes, five days per week, for four weeks. They compared blood flow, arterial function, and the number of capillaries in the muscles of the stretched lower limb to the unstretched, contralateral limb. According to this new research, daily muscle stretching could bring health benefits to elderly people with reduced mobility.
Prof. Judy Muller-Delp said, “The benefits of exercise are well known, but elderly people with limited mobility are often less likely to take part. Our research suggests that static muscle stretching performed regularly can have a real impact by increasing blood flow to muscles in the lower leg. This highlights that even individuals who struggle to walk due to pain or lack of mobility can undertake activity to possibly improve their health.”
More Information: Daily muscle stretching enhances blood flow, endothelial function, capillarity, vessel density and connectivity in aged skeletal muscle, Journal of Physiology (2018). DOI: 10.1113/JP275459