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Scientists discovered the most effective exercise to reduce blood pressure

[Sept. 5, 2023: Staff Writer, The Brighter Side of News]


In the world of fitness, a seemingly subtle workout form has emerged as a game changer for blood pressure management: isometric exercises. (CREDIT: Creative Commons)


In the vast world of fitness, amidst the heart-pounding beats of Zumba and the intensity of HIIT sessions, a seemingly subtle workout form has emerged as a game changer for blood pressure management: isometric exercises.


A recent comprehensive meta-analysis in the prestigious British Journal of Sports Medicine puts these exercises on a pedestal, advocating their effectiveness over many popular workout methods in reducing blood pressure.


 
 

Understanding the Power of Isometric Holds


To those unfamiliar, isometric exercises involve holding a specific position without movement, akin to a plank. These exercises, despite their static nature, have a dynamic impact on our cardiovascular health.


According to the analysis, isometric exercises outperform HIIT, dynamic strength training, and cardio when it comes to blood pressure reduction, leaving many of us both surprised and intrigued.


 

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“When we do exercises like planks, our muscles squeeze on blood vessels,” reveals Dr. Joseph A. Daibes, a renowned interventional cardiologist and the president/founder of New Jersey Heart and Vein.


He explains the phenomenon of vascular adaptation: “Once we relax post the exercise, there’s a rush of blood. This recurrent adaptation ensures that our blood vessels evolve in their responsiveness, effectively bringing down the blood pressure.”


 
 

Why Isometrics Make a Difference


So, what makes isometric exercises the top contender in this health marathon?

  1. Blood Vessel Conditioning: As mentioned by Dr. Daibes, vascular adaptation plays a key role. The constant squeeze and release train our vessels for better blood flow regulation.

  2. Gentler on the Heart: Contrary to HIIT, isometrics don’t place undue stress on our cardiovascular system. Nelly Darbois, PT, an adept physical therapist and scientific writer, highlights that even though isometrics might transiently raise blood pressure during the hold, it drops quickly post exercise. “Dynamic exercises, on the other hand, can lead to a prolonged elevation in heart rate and blood pressure, putting potential strain on the heart,” she elaborates.

  3. Stress-Reduction Through Breath Control: Many isometric positions, like the Warrior pose in yoga, demand controlled breathing. This act not only helps in exercising restraint but also significantly lowers stress, asserts Darbois.

  4. Nervous System Calibration: Kieran Sheridan, a seasoned sports physical therapist, sheds light on the nervous system's involvement. “Isometric exercises temper the activity of the sympathetic nervous system, which is linked to the ‘fight or flight’ response and consequentially, high blood pressure,” he notes.

  5. Better Blood Pressure Regulation: Isometrics enhance the responsiveness of baroreceptors, the blood pressure monitors in our body, leading to improved blood pressure regulation, as explained by Sheridan.


 
 

Kickstart with Two Isometric Holds


Eager to dip your toes in the isometric waters? Both Darbois and Sheridan swear by wall sits and planks as the go-to exercises for beginners:


Wall Sit:

  1. Find a clear wall space and lean against it.

  2. Slide down until your thighs are parallel to the ground, mimicking a sitting position.

  3. Hold for 1-2 minutes or longer if possible.

  4. Rest (preferably for 1-4 minutes, as Darbois suggests).

  5. Repeat 3-4 times.

During wall sits, maintain an upright posture, engage the core, and ensure steady breathing.


Plank:

  1. Begin in the push-up position with arms straightened beneath your shoulders.

  2. Keep your core tight, maintaining a straight line from head to heel.

  3. Hold for 30 seconds to a minute.

  4. Rest for 1-4 minutes.

  5. Repeat 3-4 times.

It's essential to activate the chest, shoulders, and core muscles throughout this exercise.


 
 

Maximizing Benefits Through Best Practices


Before delving into any exercise regime, it's imperative to consult with a healthcare provider. Dr. Daibes emphasizes this, especially for those with existing health concerns.



For beginners, Sheridan advocates commencing with shorter holds and gradually increasing the duration as endurance improves. Both he and Darbois suggest practicing these exercises a few times weekly for optimal results.


 
 

To make the experience more enjoyable, consider integrating other positions such as glute bridges, squats, or side planks. Maybe enroll in a yoga class, which majorly includes isometric work.



For those less enthusiastic about wall sits or planks, play a gripping TV series or an intriguing audiobook during sessions. The key is to make the process enjoyable, ensuring consistent practice and, consequently, tangible health benefits.


 
 

In a fast-paced world, sometimes slowing down, or in this case, staying still, is what our bodies truly need. Isometric exercises are not only a testament to this paradox but also a beacon for a healthier heart and lifestyle.






For more science news stories check out our New Discoveries section at The Brighter Side of News.


 

Note: Materials provided above by The Brighter Side of News. Content may be edited for style and length.


 
 

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