- A group of Brazilian researchers have found that strength training consistently can lower your blood pressure
- The team’s findings confirm the recommendations of the American Heart Association
- Experts in the field say that using strength training as a way to reduce high blood pressure requires a significant level of thought in discussion with your medical provider.
A recent study published in
The researcher’s from School of Technology and Sciences, São Paulo State University-UNESP in Brazil looked at data from 14 studies featuring 253 participants.
The average age of the participants was just over 59 and, in the majority of the studies, participants were already using medications to treat their hypertension.
One of the key findings of the analysis was that strength training can reduce hypertension in a wide rage of ages, with the biggest changes coming for those aged 18-50.
The research team found that the most effective plan for study participants was when they trained twice a week for at least eight weeks.
They also found the effects of strength training may take more time to appear.
They found that the positive effects of strength training showed up later (at approximately the 20th training session) than they did when the focus was on aerobic exercises (10 sessions). This led to the conclusion that more work should be done to figure out why strength training reduces blood pressure at a molecular level.
The team also found that even when people stopped strength training, their blood pressure remained lower for 14 weeks.
Despite strength training being known as a treatment option for people with high blood pressure, Dr, Sara K. Rosenkranz (PhD), an associate professor in the University of Nevada-Las Vegas’ department of kinesiology and nutrition sciences, says that there are still many in the field who may be unaware of its benefits, often do to previous advice given to professionals.
“I think that there are just still plenty of people out there who aren’t aware of the actual benefits associated with strength training for blood pressure. Not only prevention, but people who actually have hypertension already.”
The new findings are in-line with the current recommendations of the
Rosenkranz says that she is among the group that was taught that strength training could be harmful because of the blood pressure risks associated with certain types of weight training. Meanwhile, Dr. Dan Makowski (DO), a clinical cardiologist at Lehigh Valley Heart and Vascular Institute, feels that other forms of exercise are more commonly understood as being applicable for those with high blood pressure.
“I think, traditionally, most people think about exercise, more in the aerobic sense, whether it’s walking, jogging, running, biking. Getting your heart rate up, for a period of time and then [it] coming down as a means of controlling your blood pressure.”
Dr. Fahmi Farah (MD) of Bentley Health, says that studies like this one can give cardiologists like her another tool when speaking to those they support.
“We, of course, always knew that exercise helps with minimizing and reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease, but this just gives us more strength and data to talk about [it], to provide evidence to our patients and refer them to go and see it [the benefits] for themselves.”
However, Farah and her colleagues in the field are mindful of the fact that strength training, whether it’s because of health risks or inaccessibility due to finances or location. Is not available to everyone.
“I would say that at a population level, at a country level, at a government level, I think the help needs to come from higher up to where we can make it more feasible for everybody to be able to afford working out.”
Makowski says that, even for those who are able to work out, it’s important for them not to get overly ambitious or push themselves beyond their capacity.
“There’s different levels of strength training, it’s not always what we think about like someone bench pressing a ton of weight…it’s elastic bands, it’s mild weights with dumbbells, it’s isometric exercises where you’re using your own bodyweight.”
However, each expert Healthline spoke to for this story recommended the same thing before getting started with weight training as an intervention for high blood pressure: make sure you have spoken with your medical provider.
Farrah said she hopes that future studies can dive deeper into the cardiovascular risks women face, an area she says continues to be misunderstood.
“Women are often ignored when it comes to cardiovascular diseases,” Farrah said. “For the longest time there’s been a misconception that women don’t get affected by cardiovascular disease until they’re much older, postmenopausal.”
With cardiovascular disease being the world’s leading cause of death, the stakes are high, and Rosenkranz says that keeping in mind just how individualized strength training needs to be in order to be effective, is a good way to champion risk reduction.
“We need to be careful, I think, to monitor their blood pressure before they would start a strength training program and any particular strength training session, and also be checking exercise blood pressure as well to keep people safe…Because the answer [to how much training is optimal] is not always as simple as we might want it to be.”
If you’re interested in strength training experts advise going slowly and talking to your physician first.