A new study recently published in the Journal of Physiology suggests that stretching regularly can have health benefits in elderly patients. According to the research, although the benefits of regular stretching are widely known, the number of elderly people who participate in this wellness activity is far below what one would hope. Specifically, those with mobility issues and muscle weakness are less likely to participate although the action would benefit them the most.
Muscle stretching is often used as a warm up or cool down by athletes or those participating in regular exercise. It is much more low-impact than aerobic exercise and less strenuous on muscles and joints, making it a fantastic solution for elderly patients who may suffer from arthritis or stiffness in their bones.
The researchers from Florida State University, Kansas State University, and the University of Electro-communications in Tokyo found that stretching five times a week improved blood flow in the lower legs after four weeks. The results also showed improved blood flow to the lower legs and a higher number of capillaries in the muscles.
These results are particularly meaningful for elderly patients with mobility issues. Improved blood flow to the legs can help loosen stiffness and allow for easier movement with less pain.
Currently, the study has only been tested in older rats. The researchers placed splints on the lower leg of the rats to allow the muscles to stretch. They then stretched the muscle for thirty minutes, five times a week for four weeks. At the end of the term, they compared the stretched leg to the unstretched leg and discovered the results discussed above: improved mobility, increased blood flow, and a higher number of capillaries.
“The benefits of exercise are well known, but elderly people with limited mobility are often less likely to take part,” said Dr. Judy Muller-Delp, lead researcher on the experiment. “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.”
She continued, “We did not test a range of stretching or a different timeframe for the stretching intervention. It is possible that greater stretch or stretch that increases steadily over the four-week period would have an even greater benefit. It is also possible that greater benefit would be seen if the stretching continued for longer than 4 weeks.”
Further experiments will be needed to test out these theories. We can only hope that a similar study will be carried out on humans soon enough.
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