Got high blood pressure? Why doing the plank or ‘wall-sits’ might be better than going for a swim
- Now scientists suggest doing the ‘plank’ or ‘wall-sits’ are better exercises
- Healthy resting blood pressure was defined as a reading below 130/85 mmHg
A brisk walk, cycle or swim is often the doctors’ orders when it comes to high blood pressure.
But now scientists suggest doing the ‘plank’ or ‘wall-sits’ are better exercises for helping to control hypertension.
A review of clinical data found that while ‘cardio’, or aerobic workouts were beneficial, static exercises designed to work the muscles had the most impact.
The findings mean it could be time to review the current exercise guidelines for the prevention and treatment of high blood pressure, the authors say.
Current recommendations – such as walking and running – are largely based on older data that exclude the newer forms of exercise, such as high intensity interval training (HIIT) and isometric exercise.
Now scientists suggest doing the ‘plank’ or ‘wall-sits’ are better exercises for helping to control hypertension
Healthy resting blood pressure was defined as a reading below 130/85 mmHg; pre-high blood pressure as 130–139/85–89 mmHg, and high blood pressure as 140/90 mmHg or more
Researchers at Canterbury Christ Church University, Kent, trawled databases looking for clinical trials reporting the effects of an exercise training intervention lasting two or more weeks on resting blood pressure.
These were classified as aerobic (‘cardio’), dynamic resistance training, a combination of these, HIIT, and isometric exercises.
Blood pressure is expressed as systolic, the upper number representing the pressure as your heart pushes blood out, and diastolic, the lower one measuring the pressure as your heart rests.
Healthy resting blood pressure was defined as a reading below 130/85 mmHg; pre-high blood pressure as 130–139/85–89 mmHg, and high blood pressure as 140/90 mmHg or more.
Their analysis of 270 trials between 1990 and 2023 involving nearly 16,000 participants, found significant reductions in resting systolic and diastolic blood pressure after all the various categories of exercise.
But the largest falls in both systolic and diastolic blood pressure were seen after isometric exercise training with 8.24/4 mmHg reductions, compared to 6.04/2.54 mmHg for combined training, 4.55/3.04 mm Hg after dynamic resistance training, 4.49/ 2.53 mmHg for aerobic exercise and 4.08/2.50 mmHg after HIIT.
Further analyses revealed wall squats (isometric) and running (aerobic) as the most effective individual exercises for reducing both measures of blood pressure, according to the findings published in the BMJ.
The authors acknowledge differences between participants, statistical and methodological processes and exercise interventions may have influenced the findings.
Nevertheless, they conclude: ‘Overall, isometric exercise training is the most effective mode in reducing both systolic and diastolic blood pressure.
‘These findings provide a comprehensive data driven framework to support the development of new exercise guideline recommendations for the prevention and treatment of arterial hypertension.’
WHAT IS HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE AND WHAT DOES IT MEAN FOR MY HEALTH?
High blood pressure, or hypertension, rarely has noticeable symptoms. But if untreated, it increases your risk of serious problems such as heart attacks and strokes.
More than one in four adults in the UK have high blood pressure, although many won’t realise it.
The only way to find out if your blood pressure is high is to have your blood pressure checked.
Blood pressure is recorded with two numbers. The systolic pressure (higher number) is the force at which your heart pumps blood around your body.
The diastolic pressure (lower number) is the resistance to the blood flow in the blood vessels. They’re both measured in millimetres of mercury (mmHg).
As a general guide:
- high blood pressure is considered to be 140/90mmHg or higher
- ideal blood pressure is considered to be between 90/60mmHg and 120/80mmHg
- low blood pressure is considered to be 90/60mmHg or lower
- A blood pressure reading between 120/80mmHg and 140/90mmHg could mean you’re at risk of developing high blood pressure if you don’t take steps to keep your blood pressure under control.
If your blood pressure is too high, it puts extra strain on your blood vessels, heart and other organs, such as the brain, kidneys and eyes.
Persistent high blood pressure can increase your risk of a number of serious and potentially life-threatening conditions, such as:
- heart disease
- heart attacks
- heart failure
- peripheral arterial disease
- aortic aneurysms
- kidney disease
- vascular dementia
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