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Exercise May Be As Effective As Prescription Drugs for Improving High Blood Pressure

High blood pressure is a contributing factor for heart disease, the leading killer in the United States. A recent study suggests that exercise may be as effective as prescription drugs for improving high blood pressure.


For this study, researchers examined 194 clinical trials which looked at the impact of drugs on lowering systolic blood pressure and 197 trials which looked at the impact of structured exercise. Structured exercise was defined as: endurance — including walking, jogging, running, cycling and swimming, and high intensity interval training; dynamic resistance — including strength training; isometric resistance, such as the static push-up (plank); and a combination of endurance and resistance. In total, the studies included 39,742 participants.


The researchers examined all types of exercise compared with blood pressure-lowering drugs, different types of exercise compared with different types of drugs, and different intensities of exercise compared with different drug doses. They then performed the same analyses, only this time just for participants with high blood pressure.


The researchers found that, generally, blood pressure was lower in people treated with drugs than in those who followed structured exercise programs (-3.96 mmHg and -2.91 mmHg respectively). However, when they isolated people who suffered from high blood pressure, they found that exercise was as effective as most drugs.


Researchers from the London School of Economics and Political Science led the study. It was published on December 18, 2018, in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.


Regular exercise is one of the best things you can do for your health. The American Heart Association recommends 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise per week for maximum cardiovascular benefits. Aerobic exercise can be added to your routine either as a set workout time or by adding more walking, taking the stairs, and other movement to your day.

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