Burst of exercise 'as good as blood pressure drug'

22 February 2019 08:26

Half an hour of exercise could be as effective as drugs

Half an hour of exercise could be as effective as drugs

Just half an hour of exercise every morning could be as effective as drugs at lowering daily blood pressure, research suggests.

A study found a short burst of exercise, in the form of walking on a treadmill at moderate intensity, had long-lasting effects with further benefits from additional three-minute walks later in the day.

With an estimated one in four adults in the UK living with high blood pressure, the British Heart Foundation (BHF) welcomed the study, adding that 30 minutes of exercise was also good for mental health.

Moderate intensity

Experts examined data for overweight and obese men and women aged 55 to 80 at the start of the study.

The 35 women and 32 men took part in three different daily plans, in random order, with at least six days between each one.

The first plan consisted of uninterrupted sitting for eight hours, while the second consisted of one hour of sitting before 30 minutes of walking on a treadmill at moderate intensity, followed by 6.5 hours of sitting down.

The final plan was one hour of sitting before 30 minutes of treadmill walking, followed by 6.5 hours of sitting which was interrupted every 30 minutes with three minutes of walking at a light intensity.

The study was conducted in a laboratory to standardise the results, and men and women ate the same meals the evening before the study and during the day.

Experts measured blood pressure and heart rate and took blood tests to assess adrenaline levels throughout each eight-hour plan.

The results, published in the journal Hypertension from the American Heart Association, found that blood pressure, especially systolic blood pressure, was lower in men and women who took part in the exercise plans, compared with when they did not exercise.

Women in particular enjoyed extra benefits if they added in the short three-minute walks throughout the day.

'Reduce your risk'

Michael Wheeler, lead author of the study from the University of Western Australia in Perth, said: "For both men and women, the magnitude of reduction in average systolic blood pressure following exercise and breaks in sitting approached what might be expected from anti-hypertensive medication in this population to reduce the risk of death from heart disease and stroke."

Chris Allen, senior cardiac nurse at the British Heart Foundation (BHF), said: "This study supports a huge body of evidence that shows regular physical activity can help towards lowering your blood pressure and help reduce your risk of heart attacks and strokes.

"At the BHF, we recommend that those trying to lower their blood pressure should exercise regularly, eat a healthy, Mediterranean-based diet and go for regular health checks.

"If you're new to being more active, you can always check in with your GP and seek their advice."

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