New Guidelines for Exercise and Hypertension
Moderate Exercise Recommended to Prevent and Control High Blood Pressure
WebMD News Archive
March 9, 2004 -- Getting at least 30 minutes a day of exercise
not only helps prevent heart problems, but it should also be a part of the
prescription for treating people with high blood pressure, according to a new
Revised guidelines on exercise and hypertension released today
by the American College of Sports Medicine indicate that exercise should be a
cornerstone of therapy for the prevention, treatment, and control of high blood
pressure, and getting the recommended daily dose may not necessarily require
working up a sweat.
"Moderate-intensity exercise has been scientifically
documented to effectively lower blood pressure in people, perhaps more so than
vigorous-intensity exercise," says Linda Pescatello, PhD, who was
co-chairwoman of the panel that compiled the report. Moderate-intensity
exercise includes walking, biking, and other activities that moderately raise
the heart rate.
Pescatello says that news is especially good for people with
hypertension who are more susceptible to potential health risks from more
vigorous exercise, such as running.
"The fact that the evidence shows that moderate intensity
exercise is preferred actually optimizes the blood pressure-lowering capacity
of exercise for these people while minimizing risk," says Pescatello, who
is also associate professor and director of the Center for Health Promotion at
the University of Connecticut.
The complete report appears in the March issue of Medicine
& Science in Sports & Exercise.
Daily Exercise Recommended
Researchers say the guidelines replace ones issued in 1993 and
contain a greater emphasis on consistent, moderate-intensity physical activity
and resistance exercise (such as weight training) as a vital part of treating
and preventing high blood pressure. Previous recommendations called for more
vigorous exercise on three to five days of the week.
The new guidelines call for 30 minutes of moderate-intensity
physical activity (primarily aerobic exercise, which helps get heart rates to
70%-85% of an individual's maximal heart rate, or endurance exercise
supplemented by resistance exercise) on most, preferably all days of the week
for people with hypertension. The 30 minutes can be at once or accumulated
during the day, such as in three 10-minute walks. These recommendations are in
line with national physical activity guidelines for healthy adults issued by
Here's how to calculate 70% and 85% of your maximal heart rate,
in heartbeats per minute:
- Maximal heart rate = 220 - [your age]
- 70% of Maximal heart rate = 0.70 x [max HR]
- 85% of Maximal heart rate = 0.85 x [max HR]
Researchers say exercise programs that involve endurance
activities, such as walking, jogging, running, or cycling, coupled with
resistance training can help prevent the development of hypertension and lower
blood pressure in adults.
But even a single exercise session provides an immediate
reduction in blood pressure that can last for up to 22 hours.
"The people who get the most benefit out of these exercise
programs nationwide increasingly are the people who are doing nothing and start
to do something. It's not the guy who to goes from 30 miles a week to 35,"
says researcher Barry Franklin, PhD, director of the cardiac rehabilitation and
stress laboratory at William Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak, Mich. "It's
the low-fitness, inactive, hypertensive individual who starts a program -- even
of moderate intensity -- who stands to gain the greatest benefit."