Stretching someone on a rack was torture in mediaeval times – something you did to your enemies.  But now it seems that, done in moderation, it can be good for you.  And you might actually pay for it.

A new study by the University of Milan showed that ‘passive exercise’ improves blood flow.  It does this by decreasing the stiffness of your arteries, making it easier for them to dilate.This may have implications for diseases that are caused by an impaired vascular system, such as heart disease, stroke and diabetes.

The study author, Professor Emiliano Ce,  said that, ‘This new application of stretching is especially relevant in the current pandemic period of increased confinement to our homes, where the possibility of performing beneficial training to improve and prevent heart disease, stroke and other conditions is limited. ” The research was published in the June issue of the Journal of physiology.

My friend Ruth lives with polymalgia; a condition that has weakened her muscles, and she has always insisted that she felt better after a session in her local Body Toning gym.   Until I read this research I used to think that it was all in her mind.

But now, instead of pounding the treadmill when my gym opens again,  I’m wondering if I can take a book and go and lie down on a machine that will move me about.  I won’t have to do any work – the equipment will do it all. And, as Matt Hancock has said in a similar vein for the last 15 weeks, it’s all based on the science!  Alternatively, you may have a husband or wife, or very good friend, who will do the ‘passive stretching’ for you.

Seriously though,  it could be a great help to older people with limited mobility.




Louise Morse

Louise Morse MA (CBT) is media and external relations manager for the Pilgrims’ Friend Society. She is a writer and speaker, and author of books on issues of old age, including dementia, published by Lion Monarch and SPCK. She is a cognitive behavioural therapist, and her Masters’ dissertation examined the effects of caring for a loved one with dementia on close relatives.

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