Exercise has long been recommended to patients wanting a non-pharmaceutical approach to achieving lower blood pressure (BP). The American Heart Association (AHA) specifically recommends:
- At least 150 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic physical activity (2 hours and 30 minutes) each week.
- Incorporate your weekly physical activity with 30 minutes a day, at least 5 days a week.
- Physical activity should be performed in episodes of at least 10 minutes, and preferably, should be spread throughout the week.
- Include flexibility and stretching exercises.
- Include muscle strengthening activity at least 2 days each week.1
"...fractionized exercise showed greater reductions in systolic BP during 24-hour monitoring."Research has proven that these recommendations do bring about reductions in BP levels, but what if I don't have the time or the stamina for all of that? The AHA does support shorter exercise intervals lasting a minimum of 10 minutes and now a new study has examined the effects of continuous versus fractionized aerobic exercise on ambulatory blood pressure (ABP).2 In this study, which utilized the SunTech Medical Oscar 2 ABP monitor, the researchers studied three different patient groups: A fractionized group – subjects performed three, 10 minute sessions of aerobic exercise throughout the day; a continuous group – subjects completed one continuous 30 minute session during the day; and a control group – subjects performed no exercise. They found that in pre-hypertensive patients, fractionized exercise showed greater reductions in systolic BP during 24-hour monitoring. Furthermore, fractionized exercise showed reductions in systolic BP for the nighttime and early morning readings while continuous exercise did not.
While the population studied was small, the findings warrant further investigation to determine if this is truly an effective alternative for pre-hypertensive patients. In the meantime, for those of us who are not able to commit to a fitness class or a weekly half marathon, it may be worth making a habit of taking short walks throughout the day. Or, if you're feeling nostalgic, challenge co-workers to a game of Four Square at lunch.