Posts Tagged ‘flexibilty’

Lack of core muscle flexibility could indicate blood pressure problems

May 16, 2010

The ability to stretch and touch our toes has long been an indicator of overall flexibility, but now it might also be a tool to determine the risk of blood pressure and cardiovascular problems.

Blood pressure is a measure of how flexible and stretchable the arteries of the body are.  Arteries carry the blood containing oxygen and nutrients from the heart throughout the body.  The amount of stretchability and flexibility of the arteries determines how hard the heart must work to push the blood throughout the body.  Stiff arteries make the heart work much harder.  This leads to increased risk for heart attack and stroke.

Testing for arterial rigidity and stiffness usually requires special equipment available only in specialized doctor’s office, hospitals and labs.  But in a study by Kenta Yamamoto, Hiroshi Kawano, Yuko Gando, Mitsuru Higuchi, et. al, published in the American Journal of Physiology – Heart and Circulatory Physiology October 2009, research indicates that in middle and older age (40 + years), core muscle flexibility, as measured by the  “sit-and-reach” test, may be a simple method of determining arterial flexibility and risk for heart attack and stroke. (A summary of the study can be found at Medical News Today).

There are many theories why muscle flexibility and arterial flexibility are related, but a number of studies have indicated that decreasing flexibility in the muscles of the low back and core in middle age and older age  correlates to  decreased flexibility of the muscles of the vascular system, leading to increased blood pressure.  The relationship does not appear to apply to people younger than 40.

So, what does this mean?  The researchers suggest that incorporating stretching, such as yoga or Pilates, into daily routines could have a significant impact on heart and circulatory health, especially for those over 40. “These findings suggest a possibility that improving flexibility induced by the stretching exercise may be capable of modifying age-related arterial stiffening in middle-aged and older adults,” Dr. Yamamoto said. “We believe that flexibility exercise, such as stretching, yoga and Pilates, should be integrated as a new recommendation into the known cardiovascular benefits of regular exercise.”

There are many yoga and pilates classes designed for middle age and older adults that  help increase flexibility while accommodating injuries, etc.  Some are also available online to make it easy to do from home.  For some suggestions, check out Abby Lentz at HeartFelt Yoga or Kate Wodash at Mindful Body Center.

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