Your flexibility may be an indication of your arterial health!

Author: Kaylee Dunbar   Date Posted:26 April 2016 

When was the last time you checked how flexible you are?

Can you bend down and touch your toes?

Can you lift your foot and hold it against your bottom with one hand while balancing on one foot?

These are simple flexibility exercises but did you know that your flexibility can give you information about your arterial health? Really?! Now I bet you are intrigued!!

Let’s look at a simple test that can be done in the comfort of your own home that will give you information about the flexibility of your lower back and hamstring muscles and according to the latest research, information about your arterial health!

The Sit and Reach Test

Prior to this test make sure that you stretch, go for a brisk walk or jog to warm up your muscles. Take off your shoes and sit on the floor in front of the bottom step of a staircase.

Extend your legs straight out in front of you while placing your feet flat against the base of the bottom step, ensuring that your feet are shoulder width apart.  Put a ruler on the step above you, place your hands on top of one another with your palms facing down and reach forward slowly as far as you can! 

Record your result by using the ruler measurement! Make sure you keep your knees flat on the floor during this exercise! Try to improve your flexibility result by practicing this exercise regularly at home!

Compare your sit and reach results to this chart to find out about your flexibility score!

  Men Women
  Centimetres (CM) Inches Centimetres (CM) Inches
Super >+27 > +10.5 >+30 >+11.5
Excellent +17 to +27 +6.5 to +10.5 +21 to +30 +8.0 to +11.5
Good +6 to +16 +2.5 to +6.0 +11 to +20 +4.5 to +7.5
Average 0 to +5 0 to +2.0 +1 to +10 +0.5 to +4.0
Fair -8 to -1 -3.0 to- 0.5 -7 to 0 -2.5 to 0
Poor -20 to -9 -7.5 to -3.5 -15 to -8 -6.0 to -3.0
Very Poor <-20 -8.0 <-15 <-6.0

 

The Study that confirms these findings:

A cross-sectional study design, investigated the hypothesis that reduced flexibility may indicate arterial stiffness.  The study utilised a total of 526 adults which divided participants into three different age groups, 20 to 39 years of age (young), 40 to 59 years of age (middle-aged) and 60 to 83 years of age (older).  

Participants in each age group were then divided into either a poor or high flexibility group depending on the results of their sit and reach test.  

Researchers used a technique called Brachial-Ankle Pulse Wave Velocity to assess the participants arterial stiffness.   

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The Results:

Researchers concluded that participants who demonstrated poor flexibility on their sit and reach test in both the middle and older aged groups also showed to have greater arterial stiffness. 

This gave researchers additional insight that age may have an impact on arterial stiffness because no difference was seen amongst individuals in the younger aged group despite having a poor or high flexibility result on their sit and reach test.

Based on this information researchers concluded that age and flexibility may be predictors of arterial stiffening, independent of other components of fitness such as cardio respiratory fitness, muscular strength and endurance. 

Why is arterial stiffness bad?

Our heart pumps blood to the arteries which transports oxygenated blood and nutrients throughout our entire body, all the way down to our hands and feet! If the artery walls become stiff, our heart has to work harder to continue pumping the same volume of blood through the arteries and this causes an elevation in blood pressure! 

So as you can see, maintaining your arterial health is extremely important!

To enhance your flexibility, check out these top therapies:

This is an exercise that has been practised for over 3,000 years to help enhance and maintain flexibility and promote blood flow. Yoga is beneficial for assisting with inner calmness because it helps to relax the body and mind. This exercise can be done in the comfort of your own home or if you are keen you may wish to go to yoga classes!  If it is your first time partaking in yoga, don’t worry because there are many different levels available to support your skill set.

Massage therapy can be beneficial for flexibility for a number of reasons - it helps to relax the muscles relieving the body of tension and stiffness and promotes blood circulation. Massage is also extremely beneficial to reduce toxins and promotes relaxation to minimise stress levels.

  • Stretching:

Stretching helps to improve flexibility and supports joint range of motion. It is essential to stretch regularly especially prior to exercise to help increase blood flow to your muscles, this will help reduce the chance of sustaining an injury. You may wish to get advice from a personal trainer who can design a fitness program for you to include specific stretches that will help to improve your flexibility.

  • Pilates:

Pilates combines the use of exercise, breathing and meditation to lengthen and stretch the muscles.  Other benefits of Pilates include promoting relaxation, improving flexibility, posture, muscle strength and muscle tone.

  • Physiotherapy:

A Physiotherapist can design a treatment protocol specific to your needs to improve and sustain your flexibility through a series of muscle stretching exercises and joint manipulation. Physiotherapists often recommend additional therapies if needed such a those listed above.

Written by Kaylee Dunbar

Kaylee has a Bachelor of Health Science in Naturopathy and an Advanced Diploma as a Pharmacy Technician. Her passion for natural medicine first began when she worked as a pharmacy technician and saw how many people were looking for more ways to support their health. This sparked her interest in learning how to support health using complementary medicine alongside orthodox medicine. Her main objective is to inspire and educate others about the benefits of natural medicine and how to apply it to everyday life.

Although Kaylee is passionate about natural medicine she does not mind a glass of red wine every now and again!