In a remarkable breakthrough, scientists have discovered that isometric exercises, such as planks and wall sits, hold the key to effectively reducing blood pressure, surpassing even the government’s recommended exercise guidelines.
Conducted by experts from Canterbury Christ Church and Leicester Universities, this study compared the efficacy of various exercise forms in combating high blood pressure. Astonishingly, “isometric exercises,” which engage muscles without movement, emerged as nearly twice as effective as the standard exercise recommendations.
While the NHS advises adults to engage in 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity each week, alongside lifestyle changes, it overlooks newer exercise approaches like high-intensity interval training (HIIT) and isometric exercises.
The research encompassed an impressive scale, analyzing 270 randomized controlled clinical trials with 15,827 participants, to delve into the effects of different exercise forms on resting blood pressure. These categories included aerobic exercises, dynamic resistance training, and a combination of HIIT and isometric exercises. The researchers meticulously examined the impact on both systolic and diastolic blood pressure.
The findings, published online in the prestigious British Journal of Sports Medicine, unveiled significant reductions in both systolic and diastolic blood pressure across all exercise categories. Notably, while other exercises like aerobic workouts, squats, weights, and HIIT also positively affected blood pressure, isometric exercises emerged as the clear winner.
Lead researcher Jamie O’Driscoll, a reader in cardiovascular physiology at Canterbury Christ Church University, shed light on the mechanics behind isometric exercises. He explained that these exercises involve muscle contraction without altering the length. This unique static contraction compresses the blood vessels supplying blood to the muscles, resulting in reduced blood flow and oxygen supply during the exercise. The subsequent relaxation of the muscles prompts a surge of blood flow through the vessels, setting isometric exercises apart from other workout forms and driving greater improvements in blood flow regulation.
The implications of this groundbreaking study call for reevaluating current exercise guidelines regarding hypertension prevention and treatment. O’Driscoll recommends incorporating 4 sets of 2-minute wall sits, with 2-minute rest intervals, thrice a week, as an effective strategy for lowering blood pressure. Furthermore, he advocates for a diverse exercise routine, combining isometric exercises with other modes to cater to individual preferences and maximize the range of health benefits.
While the study’s findings are undoubtedly promising, Dr. Kush Joshi, a sports and exercise medicine consultant and a fellow of the Faculty of Sport and Exercise Medicine, raises valid concerns about practicality for some patients. He emphasizes that certain individuals may find it challenging to perform planks or wall sits, and therefore inclusive solutions must be explored to make these exercises accessible to everyone with elevated blood pressure. Policymakers are encouraged to recognize exercise as a fundamental pillar of treatment, not only for hypertension but also for other medical conditions, ultimately alleviating the burden of medication for the population.
Joanne Whitmore, a senior cardiac nurse at the esteemed British Heart Foundation, applauds the study’s revelations on the diverse benefits of exercise beyond traditional aerobic workouts. She emphasizes the importance of embracing practices that individuals enjoy, as this key factor encourages longer-term commitment and contributes to maintaining lower blood pressure. However, Whitmore also stresses the significance of lifestyle changes, such as weight management, balanced nutrition, and reduced alcohol consumption, to enhance overall well-being.
This groundbreaking research unveils the potential of isometric exercises in reducing blood pressure, urging individuals to incorporate these powerful workout techniques into their fitness routines for enhanced cardiovascular health.