True Today

Stuff that matters

Patients should choose their exercise regime based on their blood pressure to help stave off heart attacks and strokes, experts say.

The heart benefits of different physical activities vary according to an individual’s blood pressure, a study has found.

Exercise was found to be as effective at lowering blood pressure as common medications.

But the research found the benefits could be increased further if programmes were tailored to patients’ specific blood pressure.

Recommended exercises
High blood pressure (140/90mmHg or higher) Aerobic exercise, such as walking, running, cycling or swimming is most effective

Normal to high blood pressure (130-139/85-89mmHg) Strength and resistance training should be the priority. Focus on press-ups, lifting weights or doing squats

Normal (130/84mmHg or lower) All exercise is beneficial but so-called ‘isometric resistance training’ has the biggest effect. This is when you contract muscles through static exercises such as the plank or wall sits

The authors – the European Society of Cardiology – urged doctors to divide patients in to three groups and tell each to focus on a different form of exercise.

People with high blood pressure should do aerobic exercises like cycling, walking or swimming.

Those with higher than normal blood pressure, but who are not yet classed as having hypertension, should focus on strength training while people with normal blood pressure should do resistance exercises such as the plank.

Around one in three adults in the UK has high blood pressure.

If untreated, it increases the risk of heart attacks and strokes.

Doctors tend to prescribe ACE inhibitors or beta blockers to keep it under control.

The study, in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, analysed more than 34 studies looking at blood pressure and exercise.

It concluded that doctors should ‘prioritise the choice of exercise based on the individual blood pressure level’.

Lead author Professor Henner Hanssen of Switzerland’s Basel University said: ‘In people with hypertension, the blood pressure reduction that can be achieved with aerobic exercise is the same, or even slightly more, than taking a single antihypertensive medication.’

Around one in three adults in the UK has high blood pressure (stock image) and, if untreated, it increases the risk of heart attacks and strokes

He added: ‘For most exercises, the blood pressure lowering effect lasts for about 24 hours, similar to medication, so it’s best to be active every day if possible.’

A strong coffee 30 minutes before a workout boosts weight loss, scientists have found.
The research, published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, also found the effects of the caffeine are more marked in the afternoon than in the morning.