A Little Exercise Lowers Blood Pressure

60-90 minutes of exercise a week significantly drops blood pressure

From the WebMD Archives

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 study.

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 cycling)
  • 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 time.

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."

WebMD Weight Loss Clinic - Medical News Reviewed by Michael W. Smith, MD on August 29, 2003


SOURCES: American Journal of Hypertension, August 2003. News release, American Society of Hypertension.

© 2007 WebMD, Inc. All rights reserved.

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