A prescription medication like benazepril can lower the systolic blood pressure of someone with hypertension by 5-10 points (mmHg) and the diastolic number by 3-5. But what about exercise to lower blood pressure? And which exercise is best?
Longterm Effects of High Blood Pressure
When a person takes a blood pressure lowering medication such as an antihypertensive, the goal is to lower the blood pressure to decrease the longterm effects of hypertension.
Longterm effects of hypertension include:
- increased risk of stroke
- kidney damage
- heart disease
- erectile dysfunction
- peripheral vascular disease
- atrial fibrillation
Fortunately, a lot of the damage can be reversed by lowering these elevated pressures. The sooner, the better, which is why it makes sense to screen individuals for hypertension.
Measuring the number in the doctor’s office, however, is the least effective method of screening for elevated blood pressure; it should ideally be done at home or using an ambulatory blood pressure reading.
Exercise to Lower Blood Pressure
We hear the mantra frequently that exercise lowers blood pressure, which is true. But which type of exercise is most effective?
Fortunately, a recent, well-designed research study answered this exact question. And, as we have predicted before, cardio is the least effective among the various exercise options.
Types of exercises tested in this study:
- aerobic training (cardio)
- dynamic resistance training
- combined training
- high-intensity interval training (HIIT)
- isometric exercise training
The advantage of using exercise to lower blood pressure instead of just medications is that exercise has the added advantage of improving blood sugars, increasing bone density, decreasing the risk of injuries from falls, and improving mood and sleep.
At Heart Health Coach, we prioritize comprehensive approaches to improving heart health rather than singular methods.
Which Exercise to Choose
This study found that isometric exercises came far ahead in lower systolic and diastolic blood pressure numbers. So, which exercise should you do?
The best exercise to choose is the one you can stick with and enjoy. If you despise exercise then the best one to choose is the one that will have the most result with the least effort.
Don’t change what you’re doing because of this study. Instead, measure your blood pressure using proper techniques (not just a blood pressure cuff) and see if you are at goal.
If you’re at goal, exercise based on what you enjoy. If not at goal then add in some isometrics (handgrip, leg extension, wall squats).
Isometric Exercises for High Blood Pressure
We are fans of the exercises mentioned in the video above since they are a range of different isometric exercises anyone can perform at home.
The data points to holding the contraction for 30-180 seconds with 1-2 minutes of rest between the next set, for a total of 3-6 sets. Why so vague? Because chances are you’ll have great results just by doing these and doing a little more might lower that blood pressure a little more.