Exercise As Effective As Medicine for High Blood Pressure
Researchers have compared the effects of exercise and medicines in people with high blood pressure and found similar results.
The results suggest that exercise could be a good way of keeping blood pressure under control.
Risks of hypertension
Having high blood pressure (also called hypertension) increases the risk of serious health conditions such as having a stroke or a heart attack, or developing heart disease.
People with high blood pressure often take medicines to try and keep their blood pressure levels under control. Medications include beta-blockers, ACE inhibitors, calcium channel blockers and diuretics. Those with high blood pressure will also often be advised to make lifestyle changes that can help, such as losing weight, doing more exercise and stopping smoking.
Studies and trials
A group of researchers from the UK, Switzerland and the US have looked at results of trials that have been published on the effects of either blood pressure medications or exercise programmes. The review included 391 studies and trials.
The researchers analysed the results of these trials in terms of the impact the interventions had on participants’ blood pressure levels.
Lowering of blood pressure
There were 197 studies that looked at exercise programmes and 194 studies that looked at anti-hypertensive medicines.
All types of exercise programme and all types of medication were found to be effective at lowering blood pressure levels from the baseline measurements. Medication achieved a higher reduction in blood pressure levels when compared to exercise, across all trials.
However, when just looking at trial participants who had high blood pressure, the levels of blood pressure reduction was the same in both exercise programmes and medication.
Endurance and resistance
Although all types of exercise (endurance, resistance, high or low intensity) had an impact on lowering blood pressure, a combination of endurance and resistance exercise was found to have the most significant effect.
The results of this study suggest that exercise is an effective way to keep blood pressure under control. However, none of the studies directly compared exercise and medication, and so experts advise continuing with medication for high blood pressure, but increasing levels of exercise as well.
The researchers concluded that: “Our findings confirm modest but consistent reductions in SBP [systolic blood pressure] in many studied exercise interventions across all populations”, and that the blood pressure lowering “effect of exercise among hypertensive populations appears similar to that of commonly used antihypertensive medications.”
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