A Little Exercise Lowers Blood Pressure
60-90 minutes of exercise a week significantly drops blood pressure
WebMD News Archive
Aug. 29, 2003 -- As little as an hour of exercise a week may be enough to
help lower blood pressure -- a lot.
Researchers say the findings suggest that the amount of exercise required to
lower blood pressure in people with high blood pressure may be much lower than
the current recommendations. The current guidelines call for at least 30
minutes of moderate physical activity most days of the week.
But researchers say that these early results should not be viewed as an
excuse for the general public to cut back on exercise.
They note that this study only looked at the benefits of aerobic exercise on
a select group of people with high blood pressure, and exercising more than
60-90 minutes a week provides many other health benefits not examined by this
Some Exercise is Better than Nothing
For the study, published in the American Journal of Hypertension,
researchers looked at 207 people with high blood pressure who were not taking
blood pressure-lowering medications.
The patients were randomly divided into four different groups based on the
duration and frequency of exercise per week, ranging from 30 to 60 minutes per
week to more than 120 minutes per week. The exercise programs consisted of:
- A brief warm-up period
- Aerobic exercise (such as brisk walking, jogging, swimming, or
- Conditioning exercise (such as sit-ups and stretching)
After eight weeks on the program, the researchers found that each of the
four exercise groups had significant reductions in both systolic (the top
number) and diastolic (the bottom number) blood pressure.
The ability to lower blood pressure was greatest among those who exercised
61-90 minutes per week -- an average of 12 point drop in systolic and eight
points in diastolic. But there were no further reductions in systolic blood
pressure among those who exercised more than 90 minutes a week.
The researchers also found that how many times the participants exercised
per week had no obvious effect on blood pressure -- just the total amount of
More Motivation to Get Moving
Nearly 50 million Americans have high blood pressure. If left untreated,
high blood pressure can lead to strokes, heart attacks, and kidney failure.
Researcher Kazuko Ishikawa-Takata, of Japan's National Institute of Health
and Nutrition, and colleagues say the study shows that even a modest increase
in exercise -- easily achievable by most people -- can help inactive people
lower their blood pressure and their risk of problems down the road.
Experts say those results may serve as a powerful motivator for people to
take this simple step to lower blood pressure and improve their health.
"They determined that a modest time investment in exercise pays a
dividend of reduced blood pressure," says Michael A. Weber, MD, editor of
the American Journal of Hypertension, in a news release. "This
finding means many people who are not dedicated exercisers should now be
persuaded to make this modest commitment to their health."