Science & Tech

Study reveals the best exercises to lower blood pressure

Study reveals the best exercises to lower blood pressure
Treating high blood pressure in thirties may help to protect brain health

A study has found the best exercises to lower blood pressure, so get ready to go to the gym.

Research published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine and conducted at Canterbury Christ Church and Leicester universities, compared the efficacy of different forms of exercise on reducing blood pressure and found that “isometric exercises” – which involve engaging muscles without moveme are your best bet.

That means it is time to hold a wall-sit, or plank for ages. Fun times.

The study examined 270 randomised controlled clinical trials, involving 15,827 participants, on the effects of different types of exercise on resting blood pressure.

It even found that these isometric techniques were almost twice as effective as government recommended exercises, aerobic activity like cycling and walking, though they found these other forms of exercise were effective too.

Reducing blood pressure reduces your chance of stroke, heart failure, and other issues.

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Over-40s are advised to have it checked every five years.

Treatment often involves medication but patients are also advised to eat healthily, reduce alcohol intake, stop smoking and exercise regularly.

Jamie O’Driscoll, a reader in cardiovascular physiology at Canterbury Christ Church university and senior author of the report, said in isometric exercises the muscle remained contracted but did not change in length.

This static contraction could squeeze the vessels that supplied blood to the working muscles – which reduced the flow of blood to the muscle during the exercise and therefore oxygen supply to the muscle.

When the muscle relaxed afterwards, it caused a large flow of blood through the vessels (this was different to other modes of exercise) and was likely to be the trigger driving these greater improvements in blood flow regulation.

“Performing 4 x 2 minutes of wall sits, with 2-minutes’ rest in between, three times per week, is an effective way to reduce your blood pressure,” said O’Driscoll. “They should be done alongside other exercise modes, to provide the maximum range of exercise choices rather than limiting them.”

Dr Kush Joshi, a sports and exercise medicine consultant and fellow of the Faculty of Sport and Exercise Medicine, welcomed the study’s findings, but questioned how easy it would be for patients to do.

“The reality is a significant proportion of the population will not be able to do a plank or wall sits, and furthermore may not enjoy these types of activities,” he said.

“Solutions need to be found to make these exercises accessible to all individuals with elevated blood pressure, and the study should provide impetus to policymakers to make exercise the bedrock of treatment of not only high blood pressure but other medical conditions and so to reduce the burden of medication for the population.”

Joanne Whitmore, a senior cardiac nurse at the British Heart Foundation, said it was encouraging to see the benefits of other forms of exercise, as well as aerobic exercise.

“We know that those who take on exercise they enjoy tend to carry on for longer, which is key in maintaining lower blood pressure.”

But she said it was important to make lifestyle changes too, such as losing weight, eating more healthily and reducing alcohol consumption.

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