This strength training may safely reduce blood pressure

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In a recent study published in Hypertension Research, researchers found that isometric resistance training (IRT) may help reduce high blood pressure.

The study is from UNSW Medicine & Health. One author is Mr. Harrison Hansford.

High blood pressure affects 1.13 billion people around the globe and in 2019, it accounted for 10.8 million deaths. Worldwide, it’s the leading risk factor for mortality.

Given the impact of this global health challenge, there is a clear need to reduce the prevalence and severity of high blood pressure, and exercise is one such strategy.

Isometric resistance training is a type of strength training. During IRT, the muscles produce force but do not change length. For example, pushing against a wall or holding a “plank.”

This is different from more traditional strength training like a squat or a push-up or where muscles shorten and lengthen during the movement.

Currently, IRT is not recommended by several international guidelines for the management of high blood pressure.

This was mostly due to concerns over its safety because the static nature of IRT causes blood pressure to increase markedly during exercise, particularly when performed using large muscle groups or at high intensity.

In the study, the team found that IRT was very safe and caused meaningful changes in blood pressure—almost as much as what expect to see with blood pressure-lowering medications.

They say that IRT is a time-efficient means of reducing blood pressure, needing only 12 minutes a day, two to three days per week to produce the effects.

The team also found IRT caused improvements in other measures of blood pressure including central blood pressure (the pressure in the heart’s largest artery—the aorta, and an important predictor of cardiovascular disease) and to a lesser extent ambulatory blood pressure (average blood pressure across a 24-hour period).

The team says IRT is very accessible and easy to perform the intervention. They highlight how exciting it was to know such a simple intervention could have such a strong effect on reducing blood pressure—the leading risk factor for mortality, globally.

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