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Want to ditch your blood pressure meds? Researchers say lift more weights

Nov 29, 2023Nov 29, 2023

SAO PAULO, Brazil — Adding strength training exercises like lifting weights to a moderate-to-vigorous workout routine two or three times a week can effectively lower high blood pressure, according to a recent study by Brazilian researchers. The study aimed to explore the effects of strength exercise on hypertension and analyzed over 21,000 scientific articles to reach these conclusions. The findings could be a game changer for the nearly 120 million American adults who have hypertension.

The study led by Giovana Rampazzo Teixeira from São Paulo State University (UNESP) indicated that strength training for a duration of eight to 10 weeks led to a significant reduction in blood pressure, with systolic pressure (top number) dropping by an average of 10 mmHg and diastolic pressure (bottom number) decreasing by 4.79 mmHg.

Previous research primarily focused on the effects of aerobic exercise in lowering blood pressure, while the impact of strength training has received less attention. The sample group included 253 hypertensive patients with an average age of 59, and the meta-analysis focused on baseline and post-training responses to controlled studies lasting eight weeks or longer.

The results indicated that significant blood pressure reduction was achieved after approximately 20 training sessions, and the benefits were sustained for about 14 weeks after the training ended. The study highlighted that strength training can be a non-pharmacological intervention for individuals with high blood pressure, as long as key variables such as volume, intensity, and frequency are taken into account. However, further research is necessary to investigate the molecular mechanisms responsible for the blood pressure-lowering effects of strength training.

"In clinical practice and gyms or fitness centers, strength training can be a treatment option for people with high blood pressure as a non-pharmacological intervention as long as you know enough about the key variables and take the subject's goals into account," Teixeira says in a media release.

The analysis focused on age, load, intensity, and frequency to provide comprehensive insights into the influence of these variables. The study found that strength training was most effective in reducing blood pressure when performed with moderate-to-vigorous load intensity, at least twice per week, and for a minimum duration of two months. Researchers consider moderate-to-vigorous load intensity as lifting more than 60 percent of the heaviest weight a person could lift once.

The study sample predominantly consisted of individuals aged between 60 and 68, with age subgroup analysis revealing that strength training was more effective in lowering blood pressure in the 18-50 age group compared to the 51-70 age group.

"In any event, strength training can be practiced at any age. The effect on blood pressure is beneficial in older people, too," Texeira concludes.

The study acknowledged certain limitations, including the inclusion of participants taking anti-hypertensive medication in some of the analyzed studies, as well as the lack of gender-specific analysis in studies that included both men and women in the same group. Nevertheless, the findings highlight the potential of strength training as an effective non-pharmacological intervention for managing high blood pressure and improving cardiovascular health.

The study is published in the journal Scientific Reports.

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SAO PAULO, Brazil —