When a career-defining horse race comes down to victory by a head — like it did in the 1978 contest between Alydar and Affirmed in the Belmont Stakes (Affirmed won) — you know those thoroughbreds' legs were stretched to their limit.
That's what it takes for people to be in top form, too.
A new study published in the Journal of Physiology found that people who went through 12 weeks of passive leg stretching exercises saw a 25% decrease in central arterial stiffness and 25% to 30% increase in dilation of blood vessels and blood flow.
They also had a 4% drop in systolic blood pressure (top number) and an 8% drop in diastolic blood pressure (the bottom number).
All these changes are powerful ways to improve your heart health, avoid stroke, and manage or improve blood flow problems associated with diabetes complications.
The study included four passive stretches (you do not move while stretching, and may be helped by a machine or a person to achieve the position): knee bends, hip flexing, straight leg extensions while lying on your back, and combinations of those motions. Each stretch lasted 45 seconds with 15 seconds of rest between and was repeated five times.
You can start a daily 25- to 30-minute stretching routine by checking out these resources: Type in "The National Academy of Sports Medicine leg stretches" on YouTube; or go to the Cleveland Clinic website and search for leg stretches.