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 to be in top form — for people, too! A new study published in the Journal of Physiology found that folks 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 BP (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 five 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 the 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; go to https://health.clevelandclinic.org/ and search for leg stretches; and check out “20 Minute Gentle Yoga Stretch for Tight Legs” on YouTube.

Mehmet Oz, M.D. is host of “The Dr. Oz Show,” and Mike Roizen, M.D. is Chief Wellness Officer and Chair of Wellness Institute at Cleveland Clinic. To live your healthiest, tune into “The Dr. Oz Show” or visit www.sharecare.com.