Kick off your running shoes and put away your bike; the best way to tackle high blood pressure involves barely moving at all. And you don't need any expensive kit, just a floor and a wall.
Planks, wall-sits and other “static isometric” exercises in which you bend or lower your body into a hard- to-hold position, then use your muscles to retain it for a minute or two, are significantly more effective than aerobic exercise at lowering blood pressure, a study has found.
Around one third of adults has high blood pressure, which puts them at higher risk of conditions including heart attacks, strokes and vascular dementia. To combat it, the current advice is to cycle, run and do other fast-moving aerobic activities; but this was formulated before newer routines, such as isometric exercises and high-intensity interval training or HIIT, became widely used, and there were concerns that it might be out of date.
To examine this, researchers from Canterbury Christ Church University analysed data from 270 existing studies, some of them published within the past few months. The studies contained data on almost 16,000 people.
The results showed that aerobic exercise, HIIT and weight training all reduce blood pressure - but isometric exercises have the biggest effect, with wall-sits particularly good at reducing systolic blood pressure, the “top” number in a blood pressure reading, the British Journal of Sports Medicine reports.