"The groundwork of all happiness is health." - Leigh Hunt

Why this exercise is so good for hypertension

January 11, 2024 – What you already know: Physical activity helps relieve hypertension.

What you could not know is that researchers have found that one form of exercise—one exercise specifically—is especially effective at lowering blood pressure.

A review of 270 previous studies from 2023 A study of nearly 16,000 participants found that an isometric exercise program reduced systolic blood pressure (the very best number) by 8.24 mm Hg (or milligrams of mercury, a measure doctors use for blood pressure) and diastolic blood pressure by 2.5 mm Hg lowered.

Isometric exercise produced greater blood pressure advantages than aerobic exercise (a decrease in blood pressure of 4.49 points and a couple of.53 points), resistance training (a decrease of 4.55 and three.04 points), and interval training (a decrease of 4.08 and a couple of.5 points). Points).

“Together with other research groups around the world, we have clearly demonstrated the effectiveness of isometric exercise in reducing resting blood pressure in people with blood pressure levels ranging from normal to hypertensive,” said study co-author Jim Wiles, PhD, director of Clinical Exercise Science Research from Canterbury Christ Church University in England.

Why are isometric exercises so good for blood pressure?

You perform an isometric exercise by tensing your muscles to carry a position. (As you progress, these are called ISOtonic muscle contractions.)

“Many people actually do isometric exercises and don't realize it, for example when they go to a yoga class,” said Neil Smart, PhD, professor of exercise and sport science on the University of New England in Australia.

Imagine squeezing a tennis ball for 30 seconds. When you assume an isometric position, your tense muscles constrict the encompassing blood vessels. When blood flow is partially restricted during bending in this manner, anaerobic metabolites (substances that inhibit oxygen flow) are formed.

“The body doesn’t like them,” Smart said. “As soon as you stop squeezing, blood flow returns to normal and then increases to clear the mess created in the forearm.”

“Amplified” means this: The rush of red blood cells creates stress on the partitions of blood vessels and triggers the discharge of nitric oxide, a compound that causes blood vessels to dilate. Blood pressure drops.

“Although it's just a local activity, there appears to be a whole-body effect in terms of blood pressure,” Smart said.

The research only checked out three exercises: leg extensions (performed with weight on a leg extension machine), handgrip squeezes, and wall squats. It's possible that other isometric exercises offer advantages—they simply haven't been specifically studied for blood pressure.

Wall squats specifically appear to be effective. The study examined 24 middle-aged men with high to normal blood pressure isometric wall squats According to a 2022 study, her systolic blood pressure fell by 8.5 points and her diastolic blood pressure fell by 7.3 points 3 times per week for a yr Hypertension Journal.

“How the repetition of this acute response translates into chronic blood pressure changes is not well understood, but it is related to possible changes in local vascular function, autonomic vascular function, and possibly structural vascular adaptations,” said study writer Jamie O'Driscoll, PhD, a researcher on the Canterbury Christ Church University in England

These changes may include your body adapting to exercise by releasing more nitric oxide every time, leading to greater dilation of blood vessels.

Of course, lifting heavy weights, running, and some other physical activity tenses your muscles and puts temporary pressure in your blood vessels. But a 2-minute isometric hold repeated consecutively appears to be the important thing to triggering the vasodilator effect.

A complement, not a alternative

If you’ve blood pressure issues, don't pack your trainers or stop lifting weights.

“No one should replace aerobic exercise with isometric exercise,” said Philip Millar, PhD, associate professor of physiology on the University of Guelph in Canada. “For example, isometric exercise does not appear to alter cholesterol levels, a known cardiometabolic benefit of aerobic exercise.”

Think of isometric exercises as something you may add to your regular physical activity. And it's easy to do because you may do them in a small space without leaving home and also you don't need gym equipment or loads of beyond regular time.

This is especially necessary for individuals who cannot get around well, especially older people or people who find themselves obese and find walking for half-hour too difficult. And individuals who can't afford a gym membership, travel often, or just lead busy modern lives can at all times do just a few isometric exercises.

“If someone is unable to exercise normally due to physical limitations, then it's worth a try,” said Linda Pescatello, PhD, a professor of kinesiology on the University of Connecticut. She published a Current paper call for more research before broadly updating physical activity guidelines to incorporate isometric training.

People diagnosed with hypertension should speak to their doctor before starting a brand new exercise program. However, in case you're able to try isometric exercises, perform considered one of these movements 3 times per week, with not less than one rest day in between.

Isometric hand grip

The most vital thing to recollect isn’t to go all out each time. Holding an isometric muscle flexion with greater than 50% effort could cause your blood pressure to rise, Smart said.

Tennis balls work well – and also you'll must gauge your grip strength – or more specifically, you may buy inexpensive hand grip dynamometers online for lower than $30. (Professional models cost several hundred dollars.) You'll need two so you may grab each at the identical time.

“There is some evidence that the effect might actually be weakened if you try to alternate hands,” Smart said.

If you’re using a dynamometer, first determine your maximum handgrip pull. With your forearms resting on a table, squeeze the dynamometer in each hand as hard as possible, aiming for max force. (This is in either kilograms or kilos.) Then calculate 30% of that number to seek out your goal. So in case your hardest push is 100 kilos (a typical pull for middle-aged men; women are closer to 55 kilos), then your goal on the dynamometer will likely be 30 kilos.

To perform one rep, hold the dynamometers (or tennis balls) together with your forearms resting on a table or armrest and elbows bent at a 90-degree angle. Press until you reach 30% of your maximum grip and hold for two minutes or until you’re feeling drained.

“Most people don’t get it done the first time,” Smart said.

Rest for two minutes after which repeat three more times for a complete of 4 reps.

Wall Squat (or Wall Sit)

Stand together with your back to the wall, feet shoulder-width apart and heels about 12 inches from the wall. Support yourself together with your hands, bend your knees and slide down the wall until you’re in a sitting position. Adjust your feet in order that your knees are directly over your ankles. Keep your shoulders and butt against the wall throughout the movement and keep your feet flat on the ground.

Hold the position for so long as possible, as much as 2 minutes, then rise up and rest for two minutes. Repeat the method three more times for a complete of 4 reps.

If the exercise feels too strenuous, squat flatter until you’re feeling enough burning. You will improve over time.


Caveat: The plank has not yet been studied to seek out out whether it lowers blood pressure, but researchers involved in previous studies suspect that after studied, planks may help lower blood pressure. That speculation aside, planking is a simple, difficult, and low-impact exercise that's value trying.

Get right into a push-up position and balance in your toes together with your forearms resting on the ground. Tighten your core and glutes and hold this position while keeping your entire body in a straight line. (For example, in case your butt gives way, you've lost shape and will stop.)

Hold for so long as possible, as much as 2 minutes. (Don't worry in case you come up short; even 30 seconds will be difficult.) Repeat for a complete of 4 reps.

Important tip for all isometric exercises: Don't forget to breathe. “We see that people try to hold their breath, especially when doing planks,” said Véronique Cornelissen, PhD, professor of kinesiology at Katholieke Universiteit Leuven in Belgium. “They can cause larger fluctuations in blood pressure, which can cause cardiac arrhythmias, for example.”

Try to inhale twice and exhale twice during each exercise.