To compare the effects, researchers at the University of Saskatchewan analyzed 40 adults (mean age of 61) with hypertension over the course of eight weeks. One group of participants was asked to engage in full-body stretching for 30 minutes, five days a week. The other group took a brisk walk for the same amount of time.
At the beginning of the study, each participant fell under the stage one level of hypertension (systolic: 130 to 139, over diastolic: 80 to 89). Their blood pressure was monitored while sitting, lying down, and over the course of 24 hours, using a portable monitor. After the eight weeks concluded, the participants received the same measurements.
While both groups saw reductions in blood pressure, the changes were greater in the stretching group. “Specifically, in comparison with walking, the stretching program decreased systolic and mean arterial pressures while sitting, diastolic and mean arterial pressures while supine, and nighttime diastolic and mean arterial blood pressures,” the study states.
The walking group did, however, see a greater reduction in waist circumference due to the heightened physical activity. This suggests a combination of both exercises can have positive results on overall health.
“I don’t want people to come away from our research thinking they shouldn’t be doing some form of aerobic activity. Things like walking, biking, or cross-country skiing all have a positive effect on body fat, cholesterol levels, and blood sugar,” Chilibeck says.