High blood pressure or hypertension has been associated with a number of disorders and complications such as heart attacks, strokes, and kidney failure. .The American College of Sports Medicine has issued guidelines which indicate that exercise remains a cornerstone of therapy for the prevention, treatment and control of high blood pressure (BP).1 The new guidelines recommend 30 minutes of moderate exercise (primarily aerobic) on most days of the week for people with hypertension.
Regular aerobic exercise reduces BP by increasing blood circulation to the muscles and skin and by widening the blood vessels. This contributes to higher energy levels. In addition, aerobic exercise also improves kidney function, which contributes to the body’s ability to regulate and remove excess fluids. These effects on BP can be observed immediately after the first exercise session, and are sometimes detectable even after 12 hours.
The BP-lowering effects of exercise are prominent in people with hypertension who engage in endurance exercise (includes walking, swimming, cycling and low-impact aerobics) with the BP decreasing by approximately 5–7 millimeters of mercury (mmHg), a measurement of pressure, after an isolated exercise session or following exercise training.1
A review of 15 studies by researchers from the University of Maryland has revealed that exercise training decreases BP in approximately 75% of individuals with hypertension. The review also indicated that women may show greater BP reduction with exercise training than men, and middle-aged hypertensive patients may obtain higher benefits than young or older patients.2
The beneficial effect of regular exercise in people with hypertension is not only limited to reduction of BP. It has also been shown to improve exercise capacity and quality of life.3 When combined with dietary alterations, regular exercise improves the overall rate of energy production and utilization in the body.4
- Pescatello LS, Franklin BA, Fagard R, Farquhar WB, Kelley GA, et al. American College of Sports Medicine Position Stand. Exercise and Hypertension. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2004; 36(3): 533–553.
- Hagberg JM, Park JJ, Brown MD. The Role of Exercise Training in the Treatment of Hypertension: an Update. Sports Med. 2000; 30(3): 193–206.
- Tsai JC, Yang HY, Wang WH, Hsieh MH, Chen PT, et al. The Beneficial Effect of Regular Endurance Exercise Training on Blood Pressure and Quality of Life in Patients with Hypertension. Clin Exp Hypertens. 2004; 26: 255−265.
- Roberts CK, Vaziri ND, Barnard RJ. Effect of Diet and Exercise Intervention on Blood Pressure, Insulin, Oxidative Stress, and Nitric Oxide Availability. Circulation. 2002; 106: 2530−2532.