Static muscle stretching can greatly impact health, study says.

Light stretching performed as little as 20 times over a month can make a big difference in quality of life for elderly people with low mobility, a study from Florida State University has found.

That makes it an ideal alternative for those who have been advised against more strenuous exercise.

“Our research suggests that static muscle stretching performed regularly can have a real impact by increasing blood flow to muscles in the lower leg,” said study author Judy Muller-Delp, Ph.D.

“This highlights that even individuals who struggle to walk due to pain or lack of mobility can undertake activity to possibly improve their health.”

Muller-Delp teamed with fellow researchers at Kansas State University and the University of Electro-Communications in Tokyo to test a program that included stretching five times per week for four weeks. They found that the routine can improve the function of arteries in the muscles of the lower legs and increase the number of capillaries within stretched muscles.

Patients with peripheral artery disease and patients with foot or leg problems related to conditions such as diabetes also could use muscular stretching to improve blood flow to their lower limbs and thereby increase or regain walking function, researchers said.

Complete findings were published in the Journal of Physiology.