Your blood pressure rises when your arteries contract. On the surface, this mechanism may seem benign, but, if less blood is being transported around your body, it can starve vital organs of oxygen. The result? A heightened risk of having a heart attack. Finding ways to reverse high blood pressure and relax your arteries is therefore critical.
What the evidence says
According to research published in the journal Springer Link, isometric resistance training may reduce systolic and diastolic blood pressure (the two numbers used to record blood pressure).
Researchers from the University of New South Wales (UNSW) in Sydney, Australia, recently built on that research, performing an analysis of previous studies to explore the question of isometric resistance training’s safety.
The researchers included 24 randomised control trials in their analysis, which involved 1,143 participants with an average age of 56 years. Of the total group, 56 percent were female.
The researchers only included trials that had lasted at least three weeks, which previous research suggests is the minimum length of time to produce a blood pressure change.
The meta-analysis suggests that isometric resistance training can safely lower blood pressure and may even be safer than other forms of exercise for some people.
The senior author of the study, doctor Matthew Jones, is an accredited exercise physiologist and lecturer in the School of Health Sciences, Faculty of Medicine & Health at UNSW.
He said: “IRT [isometric resistance training] 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 we found in our review.
“We were interested in how IRT reduced blood pressure in people with high blood pressure. We also wanted to know whether IRT was safe.
“We found that IRT was very safe and caused meaningful changes in blood pressure — almost as much as what you’d expect to see with blood pressure-lowering medications.”
General tips to lower hypertension
In addition to engaging in physical activity, it is important to eat a healthy, balanced diet to keep blood pressure under control.
According to the NHS, eating a low-fat diet that includes lots of fibre, such as wholegrain rice, bread and pasta, and plenty of fruit and vegetables helps lower blood pressure.
“Aim to eat five portions of fruit and vegetables every day.”