Exercise may lower high blood pressure as much as medication
By New Scientist Staff and Press Association
Exercise could be just as effective in lowering high blood pressure as prescribed medication. Researchers pooled data from nearly 400 trials and found that for people with high blood pressure, activity such as walking, swimming and simple weight training seemed to be just as good as most drugs used to treat it. However, the team warns people should not stop taking their medication until further studies are carried out.
Huseyin Naci at the London School of Economics and his colleagues analysed data from 194 trials looking at the impact of drugs on lowering high blood pressure, and 197 trials testing the impact of structured exercise. The trials involved a total of nearly 40,000 people, but none of them directly compared exercise against medication.
The team found that blood pressure was lower in people treated with drugs than in those following structured exercise programmes. But when the analysis was restricted to just those with high blood pressure, exercise seemed to be just as effective as medication.
combination of endurance exercise, such as cycling and walking, and dynamic resistance training, such as weight training, was found to be particularly effective in reducing blood pressure.
“We don’t think, on the basis of our study, that patients should stop taking their antihypertensive medications,” says Naci. It’s one thing to recommend that physicians start prescribing exercise to their patients, but we also need to ensure that the patients that have been referred to exercise interventions can adhere to them and so really derive benefit, he says.
High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, affects more than one in four adults in the UK, although many people will not realise they have it. If untreated, it can increase the risk of problems such as heart attacks and strokes.