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Sean Cate
Sean Cate
June 20, 2024 ·  4 min read

Blood Pressure is Lowered Best By These 2 Exercises, Study

Exercise is a cornerstone of a healthy lifestyle, offering multiple benefits, from weight management to improved mental health. One of its most significant benefits, particularly for those at risk of cardiovascular issues, is its impact on blood pressure. Regular physical activity strengthens the heart, allowing it to pump more efficiently, which in turn reduces the pressure in the arteries. Some recent research has highlighted the most effective exercises for lowering blood pressure, particularly focusing on two specific types: isometric exercises and aerobic exercises.

The Importance of Managing Blood Pressure

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High blood pressure, or hypertension, is a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke, two leading causes of death worldwide. Management through lifestyle modifications, including diet and exercise, is crucial for reducing these risks. Traditional guidelines have long emphasized aerobic exercises like running and cycling for blood pressure management. However, recent studies suggest that other types of exercise might be even more effective.¹

Read More: 10 Foods To Avoid if You Have High Blood Pressure (and 10 to Eat More of)

Discovering the Best Exercises for Blood Pressure

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A recent study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine has turned traditional thinking on its head by identifying isometric exercises as particularly effective for lowering blood pressure. This study analyzed 270 randomized controlled trials, encompassing over 15,000 participants, to compare various exercise modalities and their effects on blood pressure.²

Understanding Isometric Exercises

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Isometric exercises involve contracting a specific muscle or group of muscles and holding that contraction without movement. Classic examples include planks, push-up holds, lunge holds, and wall sits. Unlike dynamic exercises that involve movement and muscle length changes, isometric exercises keep the muscle length constant throughout the contraction.³ These exercises have been shown to significantly reduce both systolic and diastolic blood pressure.

Planks

Plank hold
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Planks are a full-body exercise that primarily targets the core. To perform a plank, maintain a push-up position and support your weight on your forearms and toes while keeping your body in a straight line. This static hold engages multiple muscle groups, making it an effective isometric exercise.

Wall Sits

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Wall sits, another isometric exercise, involves sitting against a wall with the knees bent at a 90-degree angle as if sitting in an invisible chair. This exercise primarily targets the quadriceps and can be easily modified in intensity by adjusting the depth of the sit.

Aerobic Exercises: A Traditional Favorite

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Aerobic exercises, also known as cardio, have long been recommended for heart health and blood pressure management. These exercises include activities like running, cycling, and swimming, which increase the heart rate and improve cardiovascular fitness over time. The study confirmed that aerobic exercises are effective, showing significant reductions in both systolic and diastolic systems.

Read More: Common Blood Pressure Drug May Increase Lifespan and Slow Aging

Comparative Effectiveness

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The study found that isometric exercises resulted in an average reduction of 8.24 mm Hg in systolic blood pressure and 4.00 mm Hg in diastolic. In comparison, aerobic exercises led to reductions of 4.49 mm Hg and 2.53 mm Hg, respectively. These findings suggest that while aerobic exercises remain beneficial, incorporating isometric exercises into one’s routine might offer superior benefits for blood pressure management.

Mechanisms Behind Isometric Exercises

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The unique nature of isometric exercises may explain their effectiveness. When muscles are contracted without movement, blood vessels within the muscles are compressed, which temporarily increases pressure. Upon release, the vessels dilate, promoting increased flow through the body and reducing pressure overall. This process also enhances the function and structure of the cardiovascular system, contributing to improved heart health.

Practical Implications and Recommendations

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For those looking to lower their blood pressure through exercise, integrating isometric exercises like planks and wall sits into a regular routine could be particularly beneficial. These exercises are not only effective but also time-efficient and easy to perform without special equipment. Health professionals recommend starting with three sessions per week, each consisting of four two-minute bouts of isometric exercises, with one to four minutes of rest in between.

Conclusion

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While aerobic exercises remain a valuable tool for managing blood pressure, recent research highlights the superior benefits of isometric exercises. By combining these two types of exercise, individuals can optimize their cardiovascular health and achieve better blood pressure control, ultimately reducing the risk of heart disease and stroke. Always consult with a healthcare provider before starting any new exercise regimen, especially if you have existing health conditions.

Read More: Blood Pressure Chart: Normal & High Blood Pressure by Age

Sources

  1. Scientists Reveal The 2 Best Exercises For Lower Blood Pressure.” Science Alert. Alex Walker and Jamie Edwards. May 22, 2024.
  2. Exercise training and resting blood pressure: a large-scale pairwise and network meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials.” BMJ. Jamie Edwards, et al.
  3. Blood pressure is best lowered by 2 exercises, study finds.” CNN. Kristen Rogers. March 14, 2024.