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Exercise Lowers Blood Pressure FREE

[+] Article and Author Information

The summary below is from the full report titled “Effect of Aerobic Exercise on Blood Pressure: A Meta-Analysis of Randomized, Controlled Trials.” It is in the 2 April 2002 issue of Annals of Internal Medicine (volume 136, pages 493-503). The authors are SP Whelton, A Chin, X Xin, and J He. The summaries may be reproduced for not-for-profit educational purposes only. Any other uses must be approved by the American College of Physicians-American Society of Internal Medicine.


Ann Intern Med. 2002;136(7):I16. doi:10.7326/0003-4819-136-7-200204020-00001
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What is the problem and what is known about it so far?

About 25% of U.S. adults have high blood pressure (hypertension). If untreated, high blood pressure eventually damages the heart, brain, eyes, and kidneys. The higher the blood pressure, the greater the risk that complications, such as heart attack and stroke, will develop. There is usually no obvious cause for hypertension, although it is more common in middle-aged and older people than in young people. Blood pressure can be measured at home or in a doctor's office with a blood pressure cuff. Blood pressure readings give two numbers, systolic (the higher number) and diastolic (the lower number) pressures. Normal blood pressures are lower than 140 mm Hg (systolic) and lower than 90 mm Hg (diastolic).

About 20% to 30% of adults are sedentary or physically inactive. Physical inactivity increases risk for high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart disease. Many studies show that regular exercise can lower blood pressure as well as the risk for diabetes and heart disease. However, we do not know exactly how much blood pressure decreases in response to regular exercise and whether exercise lowers blood pressure equally in everyone or lowers it just in some people.

Why did the researchers do this particular study?

To see how much and in whom blood pressure decreases after regular exercise.

Who was studied?

2419 adults from 54 different studies of exercise.

How was the study done?

Rather than doing a new study, the researchers analyzed information from many previous randomized trials that measured the effect of aerobic exercise on blood pressure. Participants in the trials were physically inactive adults who agreed to exercise regularly for at least 2 weeks. Exercises that improve the body's use of oxygen (aerobic exercise), such as jogging, swimming, and cycling, were studied. The authors combined the results from all of the studies in a special way (meta-analysis) to see how much exercise lowered blood pressure.

What did the researchers find?

Regular aerobic exercise decreased systolic blood pressure by 3.84 mm Hg and diastolic blood pressure by 2.58 mm Hg in people who were previously inactive. Exercise lowered blood pressure in all groups of people, including those who had hypertension or normal blood pressure; were obese or of normal weight; and were black, white, or Asian.

What were the limitations of the study?

The authors did not identify an ideal frequency or intensity of aerobic exercise for lowering blood pressure. Studies with exercise programs that lasted longer than 6 months showed smaller reductions in blood pressure than shorter studies. These studies don't tell us whether long-term (greater than a year) exercise will successfully lower blood pressure and prevent complications, such as heart attacks.

What are the implications of the study?

Aerobic exercise lowers blood pressure by moderate amounts in many different types of people. Adults should consider lowering blood pressure one of the many reasons to exercise 20 to 30 minutes several times per week.

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