A woman stretching on a mat.

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Recent research suggests that balancing and stretching exercises can aid in slowing the pace of cognitive decline that is mild. Sergey Narevskih/Stocksy

  • New research suggests the regular practice of stretching and balance and range-of motion exercises can be equally beneficial as aerobic exercises in slowing the process of moderate cognitive decline.

  • Researchers claim that the new information makes physical exercise to prevent mild cognitive decline easier.

  • Some experts believe that these kinds of exercises have additional physical health advantages.

Simple movements, such as routine stretching exercises, balanced and exercises for range of motion, could be enough to slow the process of mild cognitive decline as aerobic exercise.

It might appear like a stretch however, new research suggests that this is science. Researchers presented their findings in the 2022 Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in San Diego on Aug. 2.

For the study, they followed 296 older individuals who were classified as having moderate cognitive impairment (MCI). The condition could lead to Alzheimer’s Disease, though it’s not a precondition.

Half of students were directed to perform aerobic exercises using treadmills and stationary bikes at an intensity of around 120 beats each minute over 30-40 minutes. The remainder were instructed to practice the functional stretch, balance and exercise in the range of motion. The group worked together with their personal trainer once every week and also on two additional days over one year.

At the close in the calendar year of study, scientists carried out tests on brain function and cognitive test. No one’s cognitive decline was worse or worse, and scans didn’t show the brain’s shrinkage was occurring.


2016 research suggested

aerobic exercise can improve executive function, attention capacity the speed of processing, memory for episodic events as well as procedural memory. But older adults might struggle to get physical exercise.

Research leader Laura Baker, a neuroscientist at the Wake Forest School of Medicine said that the research’s findings indicate “this can be done by anyone,” and not just seniors who are able to do moderate intensity exercises, as per the AP report.

There are some drawbacks to this study. One, prior studies have shown that those who exercise less all have suffered from significant cognitive decline. According to AP the National Insitute of Aging said that examining people who do not exercise as part of the research might be more convincing proof of the results.

One personal trainer warns that the study did not prove that stretching by itself slows MCI since other types of gentle movements like balance exercises were also considered.

“Typically stretching is the main control in a research on brain health, and this study could have included another group, an active control that does stretchingto clarify what might be happening in this case,” Ryan Glatt, CPT and NBC-HWC is a personal trainer based in California and a brain health coach at the Pacific Neuroscience Institute at Providence Saint John’s Health Center.

However, there are some lessons from the research. Experts offer insight on what individuals can learn from the study and ways to incorporate movement in their daily routine.

Jordan Glenn, PhD, the senior vice-president of development for clinical studies at Neurotrack states that there are a variety of risks associated to MCI and the development in Alzheimer’s Disease that stretching may aid in reducing, such as:

While stretching might not increase blood pressure, it will require the user to utilize their brains.

“Stretching as well as range of movements force you to concentrate on your body and create connection between the mind and muscles to attain proper posture,” says Nancy Mitchell, RN, who has been working with patients of a certain age for over four decades. “If you’ve ever attended an yoga class, you’ll be aware of the mental effort that is required to attain the pigeon pose.”

Mitchell states that the level of focus involved in balance-related and stretching activities can stimulate the regions of the brain that are responsible for memory and thinking and slowing the decline in cognitive capacity.

Many experts recommend that balance, stretching, and exercises that increase range of motion are essential for overall physical health and daily performance, especially as we become older.

Sean Kinsman, PT, DPT who is the chief of the clinical team at RecoveryOne Notes that stretching can be beneficial for:

  • injury prevention
  • conjoint function
  • Reported stiffness as subjective
  • Maintaining a good posture to allow for load-bearing mechanics.
  • reducing inflammation

Participants took part in the study and performed stretching as well as range of motion as well as balance exercise four times a week. Kinsman states that stretching every day is the best way to go. A different personal trainer agrees, but recommends a similar routine to the one of the participants in the study is also advantageous. However, being consistent is crucial.

“When you stretch muscles, they stretch out, but it shrinks as time passes,” says David Candy, PT DPT, OCS, ATC CMTPT FAAOMPT The owner of More 4 Life.

Kinsman suggests that you take into consideration two elements of soft tissue while incorporating the gentle motion, specifically stretching to your routine: plastic and elastic range.

“With the range of elastic it is possible to stretch but there isn’t a permanent change in the length of the muscle or the tendon and it simply returns back to its normal length capacity similar to an elastic” Kinsman says. “The plastic range pushes over the elastic range in order to permanently alter the length and flexibility of the tissue.”

What does this mean to those who stretch?

“Stretching in the elastic region could be beneficial in warming up and encouraging loose joints” Kinsman says. “Stretching in the elastic range could impact these areas and improve posture, relieve muscles, reduce injuries, decrease inflammation and aid in healing.”

A stretch that is held for more than 90 seconds may let a person reach the limit of stretch that is plastic to the tissue. But , he suggests it shouldn’t be done at the same time.

“[It is] also possible to be broken upinto smaller pieces, typically three repetitions of 30-second hold,” Kinsman says.

Candy insists that it is important to not move that causes discomfort.

Glatt suggests working with a personal trainer or a physical therapy professional who can develop your own personalized program that is based on your requirements goals, objectives, and capabilities.

Kinsman suggests keeping the exercises simple , and paying attention at your body.

“I would recommend stretching gently in positions that are comfortable,” Kinsman says.

Some of the exercises that he frequently recommends are:

Upper trapezius stretch to the neck

  1. Grab your arm and place it behind you, for example, the chair you’re sitting on.
  2. Make sure you turn your head slightly to reverse.
  3. Turn your head down. It’s “kind of similar to sniffing your armpits,” Kinsman says.
  4. Repeat on the other side.

Lumbar trunk rotation

  1. Lay down on your back.
  2. Your arms and head should be rotated in the same direction.
  3. Knees bent upwards.
  4. Turn them around in their opposite directions.
  5. Repeat on the other side.

Cat/camel pose

Kinsman states that this pose is best done by those who are able to stand on their knees and hands.

  1. Knees and hands by placing your hands directly beneath shoulders and knees, and hips together in a straight line.
  2. Then, arch your back. Kinsman recommends that you look like the cats who are snarling on Halloween costumes.
  3. Then, arch your back downwards like the hump of a camel, to be seated.

Hip flexor stretch

  1. Set your foot on the ground and then keep the other one in front of you.
  2. Lean forward and onto the front knee , while making sure to keep the spine neutral.”You will feel a pull from the front of that opposite side of your hip.” Kinsman says.
  3. Repeat with the opposite side.

Child’s yoga pose/prayer stretch

Kinsman advises that people only do this exercise if they are able to stand on their knees for long periods of time.

  1. Put your hands on your knees.
  2. You should sit back on your feet and then slide your arms inwards.
  3. Move your head a little downwards and notice the stretch in your shoulders, or in the middle or lower back.