High blood pressure is currently the leading risk factor for mortality worldwide. Since having high blood pressure puts you at risk for cardiovascular disease and complications like heart attack and stroke, it’s important to design yourself a heart-healthy lifestyle. According to a new study, isometric resistance training (IRT) can help.
Isometric Resistance Training and Blood Pressure
In the past, exercise has been linked to lower blood pressure. However, a new review of studies conducted by UNSW Medicine & Health researchers has revealed that specifically, isometric resistance training (IRT) could be an effective tool in reducing blood pressure.
IRT is a type of strength training that involves holding a steady position for a period of time to exude force on the muscles. During IRT, the muscles are challenged, but do not move or lengthen. For example, holding a “wall-sit” or a “plank” (push-up) position are isometric exercises. This is different from other strength-training exercises like push-ups, where there is movement involved and the muscles are constantly lengthening and shortening.
For the most recent review, the researchers set out to determine which types of exercise could be most beneficial for those with high blood pressure. Right now, IRT isn’t recommended as a means to manage high blood pressure, because doctors have been concerned that during IRT exercises using large muscle groups, blood pressure often increases. However, according to study authors Harrison Handsford and Matthew Jones, MD, IRT has shown to be both safe and effective for people with high blood pressure.
“We were interested in how IRT reduced blood pressure in people with high blood pressure. We also wanted to know whether IRT was safe. We found that IRT was very safe and caused meaningful changes in blood pressure — almost as much as what you’d expect to see with blood pressure lowering medications,” Jones explained in a press release.
And while Jones says people often cite “lack of time” as a reason that they’re physically inactive, IRT may provide the perfect solution. “IRT is a time-efficient means of reducing blood pressure, needing only 12 minutes a day, two to three days per week to produce the effects we found in our review,” he explains. “It’s particularly exciting for people who may have difficulty performing more ‘traditional’ exercise such as walking, cycling or strength training knowing they have another exercise type in their tool kit to help manage their high blood pressure.”
There you have it. If you’re trying to keep your heart healthy as you age or more specifically, lower your blood pressure levels, dedicate 12 minutes of your day to a few isometric resistance moves. To create your own routine, perform two rounds of six isometric exercises (like planks, wall-sits, and holding both hands in the air) for 45 seconds each with 15 seconds of rest in between — that will bring you to 12 minutes!