Exercise for high blood pressure

Recent research on the benefits of exercise for high blood pressure conducted by 3 leading institutions suggest that regular exercise can be as effective as medication.

Exercise on the beach

People who have high blood pressure are more prone to diseases such as coronary heart disease, heart failure, diabetes or stroke which are usually treated with conventional drugs. However the report, published in the British Medical Journal, suggests that exercise may be as effective in treating the conditions as prescribed medication.

The team of researchers from the London School of Economics, Harvard Medical School and Stanford University found little difference between exercise and drug treatments while exercise proved more effective for stroke victims; although heart failure patients responded better to diuretic drugs.

For exercise to be beneficial it needs to be regular (3-5 days a week) and sufficiently strenuous to raise the heartbeat. Such exercise might include:     


  • 30-45 minutes brisk walk
  • 5km run
  • 10km cycle ride
  • 30 minute swim
  • 30 minutes gym workout
  • Team sports e.g. football, basketball etc


The latest research on exercise does however suggest that one in six people may only gain a minimal (5%) benefit.

Although more trials are needed, the research team believed that; “exercise and many drug interventions are often potentially similar in terms of their mortality benefits…in cases where drug options provide only modest benefit, patients deserve to understand the relative impact that physical activity might have on their condition.”

Senior staff at the British Heart Foundation believes further research is necessary before firm conclusions can be drawn and that people on prescribed drugs should keep taking them.

This sentiment is echoed by Dr Peter Coleman at the Stroke Association who maintains that the benefits to stroke victims of exercise and physiotherapy should not preclude any existing prescribed medication.

An NHS England spokesperson agrees that exercise plays an important part in a healthy lifestyle but anyone considering any change in their treatment should first consult their doctor.

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