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Lower Your Blood Pressure–By Sitting?

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FACT CHECKED
  Published on July 7th, 2022
  Reading time: 3 minutes
  Last modified July 11th, 2022
Hand exercises for blood pressure

If you had to guess, out of these four interventions, which lowers blood pressure the most? 

  1. Endurance training
  2. Resistance training
  3. A combination of the two
  4. Isometric resistance training 

Well, if you’re like me, chances are you got it wrong! We hear the term blood pressure thrown around a lot but most people don’t even know what it truly is. In short, blood pressure is the pressure of circulating blood against the walls of blood vessels. High blood pressure, which we also call hypertension, is a major problem that plagues our society today. 

What Is Hypertension?

By definition, hypertension is the chronic elevation of resting arterial blood pressure (BP) above 140 mm Hg systolic (SBP) and/or 90 mm Hg diastolic BP (DBP). Hypertenstion remains one of the most significant modifiable risk factors for cardiovascular disease (e.g. coronary artery disease, stroke, heart failure). In fact, nearly 1 in 2 adults have hypertension! To solve this problem, 80% of these individuals are given prescription medications in conjunction with lifestyle recommendations to fix their issues. A lot of these lifestyle factors are things that–if implemented–alone would make a huge difference. For example, lose some extra body fat, exercise regularly, eat a healthier diet (i.e. less processed carbohydrates), quit smoking, reduce stress, etc. And I encourage ALL of those for everyone and anyone dealing with high blood pressure.

Blood pressure is a very important marker of health, yet it’s often misunderstood. It’s so important that we factor it into your keto age. If you haven’t calculated your keto age yet, I highly recommend you do so here so you know where you stand and then what areas need improvement for your health and longevity. 

What Improves Blood Pressure Most?

If you go to your typical doctor with high blood pressure you’ll likely get the same old “lower your salt intake, stress less, and take this drug daily.” Obviously, that’s not going to be our recommendation. Rather, we were interested in seeing what type of exercise intervention people could implement to improve their blood pressure the most. A meta analysis looked at over 5,000 subjects who implemented resistance training, endurance training, a combination, or isometric resistance training in healthy adults. To our surprise, the LARGEST effect sizes came from isometric handgrip or leg exercises. In essence, isometric resistance training may have the largest potential for reductions in systolic blood pressure compared to even endurance training or resistance training. 

Another study took 72 hypertensive individuals (38–79 years old, 70% female) and had them do 4 sets of 2-minute hand squeezes at 30% of maximal voluntary contraction, with a 1-minute rest between bouts, 3 times a week. This is something that anyone reading this can do right now.  

What the Study Found

Graph of types of exercise training for blood pressure reduction

The main finding of this study was that 12 weeks of supervised isometric handgrip training significantly reduced brachial blood pressure and demonstrated for the first time that isometric handgrip training also decreased central systolic and mean blood pressure in hypertensive individuals. The observed reductions of 6 and 4 mmHg for central systolic and diastolic BP, respectively, are estimated to reduce the risk of cardiovascular mortality by approximately 25%.

In summary, don’t use this as an excuse to stop exercising and eating better, but perhaps if you or someone you know has hypertension, performing isometric hand grip exercises while watching Stranger Things could reduce your risk of cardiovascular mortality by 25%. 

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