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Exercise – better than drugs at cutting high blood pressure?

By Tom Walker    19 Dec 2018
The study could have an impact on the treatment of high blood pressure – a condition which is estimated to affect around seven million Britons

A new study has suggested that exercise could be as good at drugs at reducing high blood pressure.

While the benefits of exercise on lowering blood pressure have been studied – and proven – before, the new research looked to determine how exercise compares with blood pressure lowering drugs, as no direct head to head clinical trials have yet been carried out.

Led by the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) – and published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine – the study pooled data from 194 previous clinical trials, assessing the impact of drugs on lowering systolic blood pressure, and 197 trials looking at the impact of structured exercise involving nearly 40,000 people.

While the results showed that people treated with drugs had lower blood pressure than those following structured exercise programmes, the findings also suggested that when analyses were restricted to those with high blood pressure, exercise seemed to be just as effective as most drugs. The effectiveness of exercise also increased the higher the patient's blood pressure was.

The study also found "compelling evidence" that mixing cv exercise – such as running, walking, cycling or swimming – with strength and/or resistance training seemed particularly effective in lowering blood pressure.

The study could have an impact on the treatment of high blood pressure – a condition which is estimated to affect around seven million Britons.

"These findings could be used to examine and improve the evidence base supporting exercise recommendations," the report states in its conclusions.

"While our findings support previous calls to prescribe exercise as a treatment option for hypertension, relatively little is known about the effectiveness and comparative effectiveness of implementation strategies for optimal exercise uptake.

"Healthcare systems are therefore ill-equipped to ensure effective adoption of and adherence to exercise prescriptions.

"Despite the availability of national guidelines promoting exercise, levels of physical activity remain stubbornly low worldwide."

"Given our findings that even low-intensity exercise may be effective in reducing blood pressure, renewed attention is warranted to identify effective strategies to promote exercise."

To read the full research, click here for the British Journal of Sports Medicine

London School of Economics  British Journal of Sports Medicine 
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