If you walk into your doctor’s office with high blood pressure, chances are you’ll walk out with a prescription for a hypertension drug.
But s major study shows that it might make more sense to try exercise before starting a medication. The research shows that exercise can lower high blood pressure just as much as medications…and without the side effects that drugs often cause.
The study is believed to be the first of its kind. It was published online by the British Journal of Sports Medicine.
It was already known that exercise can lower blood pressure. Researchers wanted to see how the effectiveness of exercise compared with blood pressure-lowering medications.
They obtained data from 194 clinical trials that looked at the effectiveness of hypertension drugs. They also collected data from 197 trials centered on the impact of exercise. There were a total of 39,742 subjects in all the trials.
Two categories of exercise were involved…Endurance, which included walking, running, jogging, swimming, and cycling…and strength training, including working out with dumbbells and planking.
The researchers did three types of analysis. They compared:
- All types of exercise with all classes of blood pressure medications.
- Different types of exercise with different types of drugs.
- Different intensities of exercise with different medication doses.
The researchers found that exercise lowers systolic (the upper number) readings by an average of 9 points. This is about the same as a single blood pressure medication.
Yoga Reduces Blood Pressure Nearly
Twice as Much as Drugs
An earlier study showed that one kind of exercise is particularly effective at reducing hypertension. It was presented at the European Society of Cardiology conference in Munich.
It found that doing yoga caused blood pressure to go down by an average 9.7%.
This means that a person with blood pressure of 140/90 would see their readings reduced by about 14/9, going to 126/81.
Two widely used medications, ACE inhibitors and angiotensin receptor blockers (ARBs), bring down blood pressure by an average of 8/5, according to a separate study.
In other words, just 15 minutes of yoga a day reduces blood pressure nearly twice as much as standard drugs.
Professor Ashok Pandey was the lead researcher. The yoga pose used in the study is simple and doesn’t “require a lot of flexibility and really anyone can do it,” he said.
Do This Yoga Pose to Lower Blood Pressure
The Downward-Facing Dog was the pose used in the study described above. Here’s how to do it:
- Get on your hands and knees. Align your knees straight below your hips. Place your hands a bit forward of your shoulders. Have your index fingers parallel.
- Exhale as you lift your knees off the floor. Lift your pelvis up toward the ceiling. Slowly straighten your legs. Don’t lock your knees. Bring your body into the shape of an arrow, like a capital A (see photo above).
- Press down with equal force with your palms and heels. Draw your shoulder blades toward your tailbone. Adjust your arms so your inner arms face your thumbs.
- Draw your chest toward your thighs, which lengthens your spine.
- Align your ears with your upper arms. Your head should be relaxed, but don’t let it hang. Fix your gaze between your legs.
- Hold the pose for at least five slow breaths. You can go up to 100 breaths.
- End by exhaling and gently lowering your knees to the ground. Repeat until you’ve done the pose for at least 15 minutes.
If you’re on blood pressure drugs, don’t stop taking them without talking to your doctor. But after doing yoga regularly, you may find that your blood pressure is reduced enough that your doctor will tell you that you can discontinue the meds.
Editor’s Note: There is a heart attack risk factor that is 10 times more dangerous than cholesterol. But mainstream doctors don’t test for it. And statins actually make it worse.