High-intensity exercise may help reduce blood pressure

Intense exercise can reduce blood pressure, study finds.

The intensity of the exercise you undertake may affect your resting blood pressure, as well as overall heart health.

Researchers from the Children’s Health & Exercise Research Centre at the University of Exeter in the UK undertook the new study, which involved healthy teenage boys. The teen years are when heart diseases can start to develop, so finding ways to increase heart health early on is important.

The aim of this study was to see what effect different exercise intensities have on heart health.

The study

The participants were aged between 12 and 15 year. Firstly, the subjects were taken through an exercise test to determine the intensities (moderate and vigorous) relevant to each boy.

Subsequently, the participants underwent three experimental conditions. The first: vigorous intensity exercise (running close to maximum heart rate). The second: moderate intensity exercise (jogging). The third: a control condition where the participants did no exercise.

The subjects completed each of these in a randomised order and on separate days.

Before and after each session, researchers measured the participants’ blood pressure. Researchers also took ultrasound images of the carotid artery, one of the main arteries that supplies blood to the head and neck.

These measurements were taken to see how the different levels of exercise intensity affect blood pressure levels. Post-exercise, blood pressure generally decreases below the usual resting rate, an effect known as post-exercise hypotension.

The results

Researchers found that the vigorous intensity exercise caused post-exercise hypotension to last for up to an hour. That is, high-intensity exercise lowered the participants’ blood pressure for a prolonged period.

However, the same effect was not found for moderate intensity exercise. With moderate intensity exercise, blood pressure returned to normal after only 20 minutes post-exercise.

The researchers believe this is the first study to demonstrate that post-exercise hypotension depends on exercise intensity in teenagers.

Furthermore, the researchers believe studies such as this may have clinical importance for people who suffer from high blood pressure.

Further studies will expand the research to adolescent girls, as well as to adults who may be at risk of developing heart disease later in life.

Reference

Oliveira, R. et al (2018.) ‘Mechanisms of blood pressure control following acute exercise in adolescents: effects of exercise intensity on hemodynamics and baroreflex sensitivity.’
Experimental Physiology. First published: 11 July 2018. http://dx.doi.org/10.1113/EP086999

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