2 Exercises Are The Best At Lowering Your Blood Pressure, Study Finds

2 Exercises Are The Best At Lowering Your Blood Pressure, Study Finds

2 Exercises Are The Best At Lowering Your Blood Pressure, Study Finds

It’s a known health fact that aerobic exercises, such as running, brisk walking, swimming, and cycling, are among the best activities that can help lower blood pressure. Some people, though, are not able to do high-impact exercises that require a lot of energy. However, a new study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, says vigorous exercises are not the only type of physical activity that can reduce high blood pressure, also known as hypertension.

Researchers at Canterbury Christ Church University in the United Kingdom suggest isometric exercises—such as wall squats and planks—are effective in preventing and reducing high blood pressure. Unlike aerobic exercises that involve movement that increases heart and breathing rates, isometric exercises are done in a static position and do not rapidly elevate heart rates.

Isometric exercises target a specific muscle or group of muscles. The muscle contracts and holds a position without any visible movement of the joint. Isometric exercises primarily improve muscular strength and endurance in the specific joint angles being held.

“Overall, isometric exercise training is the most effective mode in reducing both systolic and diastolic blood pressure,” Dr. Jamie O’Driscoll, the study’s co-author, said in a news release. “These findings provide a comprehensive data-driven framework to support the development of new exercise guideline recommendations for the prevention and treatment of arterial hypertension.”

Previously published studies have shown that exercise in general helps in blood pressure management, with aerobic or “cardio” exercises being highly recommended for managing hypertension. However, these recommendations are based on older data that does not consider newer forms of exercise, such as isometric exercise and High-intensity Interval Training (HIIT), the authors said in their study. HIIT alternates short periods of high-intensity cardiovascular bursts, usually not more than 20 seconds, followed by brief recovery periods.

The UK researchers felt the recommendations on the best form of exercise for controlling blood pressure were outdated. So, the investigators looked through databases for randomized controlled trials lasting two or more weeks that reported the effects of exercise training interventions on resting blood pressure.

Resting blood pressure is measured in two numbers, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The first number, called systolic blood pressure, measures the pressure in your arteries when your heart beats. The second number, diastolic blood pressure, measures the pressure in your arteries when your heart rests between beats. In reading a person’s blood pressure, the systolic number is on the top and the diastolic number is on the bottom. So, if the measure reads 120 systolic and 80 diastolic, you would say, “120 over 80,” or write, “120/80 mmHg.”

The CDC reports that nearly half of adults in the United States have hypertension (48.1 percent, 119.9 million), which is defined as a systolic blood pressure greater than 130 millimeters of mercury (mmHg) or a diastolic blood pressure greater than 80 mmHg or are taking medication for hypertension.

The study defined healthy resting blood pressure as a reading below 130/85 mmHg; pre-high blood pressure as 130–139/85–89 mmHg; and high blood pressure as 140/90 mmHg or more.

The authors included 270 randomized controlled trials published between 1990 and February 2023 in their final analysis with a sample size of 15,827 participants. The exercises the participants performed were HIIT, isometric exercise, aerobic exercise, dynamic resistance training, and a combination of the latter two. The researchers saw the largest falls in both systolic and diastolic blood pressure were after isometric exercise training.

According to the news release, the reductions in blood pressure amounted to:

  • 8.24/4 mmHg after isometric exercise training
  • 6.04/2.54 mmHg after combined training
  • 4.55/3.04 mmHg after dynamic resistance training
  • 4.49/2.53 mmHg after aerobic exercise
  • 4.08/2.50 mmHg after HIIT

In addition, wall squats (isometric exercise) and running (aerobic exercise) were the most effective individual exercises for reducing systolic blood pressure. Running (aerobic exercise) was the most effective for decreasing diastolic pressure. Isometric exercise was overall the best for lowering both systolic and diastolic pressure, the news release said.

Joanne Whitmore, the senior cardiac nurse at the British Heart Foundation, told CNN that it is encouraging “to see other forms of exercise explored in this research” because people tend to carry on longer with exercises they enjoy, which is important in blood pressure management.

“However, it’s important to note that there are other lifestyle changes as well as exercise that can benefit your blood pressure,” she added. “These include keeping to a healthy weight, eating a balanced diet, cutting down on salt, not drinking too much alcohol and ensuring that you continue to take any prescribed medication.”

How to do Wall Squats and Planks

Isometric exercises, like wall squats and planks, are among the best exercises for lowering blood pressure, according to a new study. Here’s how to do the wall squat, according to the Arthritis Foundation:

Wall squat:

1. Stand with your back flat against a wall. Feet should be shoulder-width apart and heels about 1.5 feet out from the wall. Keep your knees in line with your heels, not out in front of your toes. 

2. Breathe in and exhale as you squat by “sitting down” as low as you can comfortably go. Don’t drop your buttocks lower than your knees and keep your knees in line with your heels. 

3. Remain squatting until you feel pain, then inhale and return to the standing position, pushing up through your heels (and not off the ball of your feet) to work the muscles in the back of your legs and buttocks.

The Arthritis Foundation recommends doing 10 wall squats three times weekly.

Here is how to do the wall plank, according to Mayo Clinic Health:

Wall plank

1. Stand facing a wall. Place your elbows and forearms on the wall.

2. Take a step back, tuck in your bottom, and tighten your abdominal muscles by pulling your belly button into your spine. Hold for 20 seconds.

Planks focus on your back, shoulders, and abdominal muscles.

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