- Exercise may be as good or better than a medication for reducing high blood pressure, experts say.
- Specific types of exercise, such as jogging, weight lifting, and yoga, work best for certain groups.
- Here’s how to exercise to get the most benefits for your personal blood pressure range.
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Working out can be as good or better than taking medication to improve your blood pressure, particularly if you choose the right kind of exercise, evidence suggests.
Specific types of workouts could benefit different groups of people based on their blood pressure, according to recommendations published March 23 in the European Journal of Preventative Cardiology.
Researchers from more than a dozen medical institutions around the world, including the University of Oxford and the University of Connecticut, made the recommendations based on the latest evidence on heart health and exercise.
These are the first specific exercise recommendations based on high-quality research intended to help people reduce their blood pressure. High blood pressure affects over one billion people worldwide and is a major cause of cardiovascular disease and premature death.
For high blood pressure, do aerobic exercise like walking, running, or cycling
High blood pressure, or hypertension, is defined as anything above 140/90 mmHg. People who are already at this level can benefit most from aerobic training, researchers found.
Often referred to as cardio exercise, this includes movements that ramp up your heart rate and make you breathe harder, including running, swimming, and cycling.
Lower intensity exercise such as walking and jogging is also included in this category.
The researchers found evidence that these exercises can work as well or better than any one medication for treating high blood pressure, Dr. Henner Hanssen, head of preventive sports medicine at the University of Basel in Switzerland, said in a press release.
For blood pressure in the high-normal range, try moves such as squats, push-ups, and lifting weights
Slightly elevated blood pressure is defined as being between 130-139/85-89 mmHg.
People in this group should prioritize dynamic resistance training, or strength movements that incorporate multiple large muscle groups at once.
That can include body weight exercises, as in a push-up or air squat, as well as weight lifting movements such as front squats, back squats, deadlifts, and presses.
To maintain normal blood pressure, do planks, yoga, and wall sits
For people who already have normal blood pressure (less than 120/80 mmHg) and want to maintain it, the best method is isometric resistance training.
That includes exercises that requires you to hold a muscle contraction. Some examples include a plank, static lunge, or wall sit. Many yoga movements, like chair pose or bridge pose, are also isometric.
Exercise every day for best results
To get the most out of these movements for heart health, experts recommend adding some exercise into your daily routine.
That doesn’t mean you have to run a marathon every day or spend hours in the gym. Even a little bit of movement, such as a brief walk or short strength-training circuit, has benefits.
“For most exercises, the blood pressure lowering effect lasts for about 24 hours, similar to medication, so it’s best to be active every day if possible,” Hanssen said.