Tai chi outperforms aerobic exercise in lowering blood pressure

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In a remarkable study coming from China, medical researchers have discovered that practicing tai chi can be more effective in lowering blood pressure than traditional aerobic exercises.

Published in the journal JAMA Network Open, this research sheds new light on how different types of physical activity can influence heart health, especially for those at risk of developing high blood pressure.

High blood pressure, or hypertension, is a common health issue that can lead to serious conditions like heart disease and stroke.

It’s often preceded by a phase called prehypertension, where blood pressure is higher than normal but not yet in the hypertension range.

Doctors have long recommended aerobic exercises, like running or cycling, which increase heart and breathing rates, to manage and prevent high blood pressure.

Tai chi, a gentle form of exercise originating from ancient Chinese martial arts, has also been suggested as beneficial, though detailed comparisons have been scarce until now.

The study involved 349 adults who were identified as having prehypertension.

They were divided into two groups: one took up tai chi, and the other aerobic exercises, with both groups engaging in their respective activities for one hour, four times a week, over a year.

The researchers closely monitored the participants’ blood pressure at the start, halfway through, and at the end of the study period.

Results showed a clear advantage for those practicing tai chi. Their systolic blood pressure (the top number in a blood pressure reading, indicating the pressure in arteries when the heart beats) dropped by an average of 7.01 mmHg.

This reduction was greater than the 4.61 mmHg decrease observed in the aerobic exercise group. Moreover, the benefits of tai chi extended beyond waking hours, with significant blood pressure reductions noted during sleep.

Perhaps most intriguing was the observation made after the study concluded. The participants who practiced tai chi were less likely to progress to full-blown hypertension compared to their counterparts in the aerobic exercise group.

This finding suggests that tai chi might offer long-term benefits in managing and preventing high blood pressure.

This study is a breakthrough in understanding how different physical activities affect cardiovascular health. Tai chi, with its slow movements and focus on breath control, might be particularly beneficial for people at risk of developing hypertension.

This gentle exercise could offer a viable alternative for those looking for a less intense form of physical activity to maintain their heart health and prevent the progression to hypertension.

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The research findings can be found in JAMA Network Open.

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