Fitness \ Doctor's Rounds

Touch Your Toes for Heart Health

Can you touch your toes? The older you get, the farther away they seem to be.
Having trouble reaching those little piggies may mean you're not as flexible as you used to be. But it could also be a sign that your arteries are out of shape.

One study looked at the connection between flexibility and artery health in people between the ages of 20 and 83.

Participants were asked to sit on the floor with their backs to a wall and reach for their toes. Then researchers tested their artery stiffness by taking blood pressure readings and calculating how fast a pulse of blood flowed through their body. They also tested overall fitness and strength.

They found that people over 40 who were less flexible also had stiffer arteries, no matter how fit they were overall.

Stiffness in arteries—which often happens with age—is linked to a higher risk of heart attacks and strokes.

The study's authors aren't sure why there's a connection between flexibility and heart health. And they didn't test whether stretching makes arteries more elastic. But it may—which is yet another reason to include activities like yoga and Pilates.

So consider stretching to other measures that are good for your arteries, including eating a healthy diet, getting aerobic exercise, and not smoking. You could end up lengthening your life.

This entry last modified on: January 21, 2013 11:55 AM

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About the Video

Having trouble touching your toes? That lack of flexibility may put you at risk for heart problems.


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