An Easy Blood Pressure Fix

A comprehensive analysis of 270 studies

The best exercise for managing blood pressure. 

If you are someone you know has struggled with high blood pressure, you know that managing blood pressure can often feel like a complex balancing act. This biomarker is influenced by various factors, including diet, lifestyle, exercise habits, and even genetics. So where does one start? What changes should someone with high blood pressure prioritize? And how quickly can you expect to see results? 

These are all good questions. 

Luckily, a piece of recent research offers some clarity for those looking to support their heart health through exercise. A comprehensive analysis of 270 studies involving nearly 16,000 participants has revealed some insightful findings on the impact of different types of exercise on lowering blood pressure.

The study compared various exercise forms, including aerobic exercise, dynamic resistance exercise, a combination of aerobic and resistance training, high-intensity interval exercise, and isometric exercise. Interestingly, the standout performer was isometrics. 

This type of exercise involves contracting your muscles for an extended period without moving the joint. Think wall sits or plank holds. It turns out that the prolonged muscle contraction during isometric exercises leads to increased release of nitric oxide when the muscle relaxes. Nitric oxide is a potent vasodilator, which means it helps expand blood vessels, thereby reducing blood pressure.

In terms of effectiveness in reducing systolic and diastolic blood pressure, isometric exercise topped the list, followed by traditional resistance training (such as weight lifting), aerobic exercise, and high-intensity interval exercise. The research suggests that for individuals with hypertension, exercise could be as beneficial as medication in lowering blood pressure. (duh)

One specific exercise that stood out in the study for its blood pressure-lowering effects was the wall squat or wall sit. The researchers discovered four sets of two-minute-long isometric squats had the most significant impact. 

During an isometric squat, you maintain the “seated” position of a squat for two minutes. Between each set, you can take a rest period of one to four minutes. This simple yet effective exercise routine could be a game-changer in managing blood pressure. And the best part is you don’t need any fancy gym equipment or a bunch of time. 

It’s important to note that while these findings are promising, exercise should not be seen as a direct substitute for prescribed medication, especially for those with hypertension. At the end of the day, your doctor is your doctor. If you are prescribed blood pressure medication, you can't just ignore that and tell them a newsletter told you to do wall sits instead. That said, exercise and other lifestyle changes could help to eventually get you off those medications. 

The Key Takeaway

Incorporating specific exercises into your routine, like the isometric squat, could be a practical and time-efficient way to support cardiovascular health and manage blood pressure. There is already an existing body of evidence that supports how beneficial exercise can be in supporting heart health. This is just another piece to add to that pile. 

Long story short, make sure exercise is a part of your life, particularly isometric exercises and resistance training. Your heart, blood pressure, and overall health will all be thankful that you did.