July 27, 2023 3 min read
A group of British researchers analysed 270 studies on the relationship between exercise and blood pressure. They discovered that various forms of exercise such as running, walking, cycling, strength training, and high-intensity interval workouts effectively lower blood pressure. Additionally, combining cardio and strength training yielded positive results.
However, the most efficient workout they examined, particularly for individuals with existing hypertension, was isometric exercise, which requires contracting muscles without any movement — like wall squats or holding the plank position are effective in reducing blood pressure. The researchers from the UK suggest updating the current guidance that primarily focuses on walking, running, and cycling.
Research in the British Journal of Sports Medicine found that all exercise can lower high blood pressure. However, wall squats and planking were shown to have a greater impact than aerobic exercise. These specific isometric exercises are designed to increase strength without requiring movement of the muscles
Isometric exercises stress the body differently than aerobic exercise, according to Dr. Jamie O'Driscoll from Canterbury Christ Church University. Holding these exercises for two minutes increases muscle tension and when relaxed, causes a rush of blood flow. It is important to remember to breathe.
High blood pressure strains blood vessels, heart, organs, increasing risk of heart attacks, strokes. Treatment often involves medication but patients advised to eat healthily, reduce alcohol, stop smoking, exercise. Over-40s advised blood pressure checked every 5 years.
The pressure of blood in the arteries is measured in millimetres of mercury (mmHg). Below 130/85mmHg is healthy while more than 140/90 mmHg is high, according to the study.
The higher number represents the pressure of blood in the arteries during heartbeats, referred to as systolic blood pressure. The lower number signifies the pressure between beats, known as diastolic blood pressure.
Researchers analyzed data from 15,827 people in 270 clinical trials published between 1990 and 2023, conducted by Canterbury Christ Church University and Leicester University.
There findings revealed resting blood pressure was reduced by:
Dr O'Driscoll states that, although relatively minor, these drops can reduce someone's risk of stroke. According to current UK guidelines, adults should partake in at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise and 75 minutes of intense physical activity weekly, as well as strength training two times a week.
Dr O'Driscoll recommends two minutes of wall squats, or holding the plank position four times with two minutes' rest in between, three times a week. Furthermore, studies show that exercise can reduce the risk of heart and circulatory diseases by up to 35%, per the British Heart Foundation.
The scientists behind this research programme have yet to identify the precise cause behind the efficacy of isometric exercises in relation to hypertension. Dr. Edwards claims that one potential explanation is that the local blood vessels around the muscle contract temporarily when the user performs the isometric exercise, and regular repetition of this act can widen the vessels. This is distinct from a dynamic exercise such as running.
They also identified other ways to influence blood pressure, such as reducing salt intake, maintaining a healthy BMI, and adhering to medications. People with hypertension should consult their physician for an accurate reading and advice on the right type of physical activity.
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