Maintain A Healthy Blood Pressure With Leisurely Physical Activities
October 1, 2013

Maintain A Healthy Blood Pressure With Leisurely Physical Activities

Brett Smith for - Your Universe Online

While some people might claim that the physical nature of their job keeps them physically fit, a new research review from the American Heart Association journal Hypertension has found that leisure-time physical activity has a bigger effect on maintaining a healthy blood pressure level.

In the review, researchers culled data from 13 different studies on the impacts of physical activity on blood pressure. Participants included nearly 140,000 people from the United States, Europe or East Asia who began their particular study with a healthy blood pressure. Nearly 16,000 would later develop high blood pressure during follow-up exams that ranged from two to 45 years after the study period began.

According to the data analysis, participants who exercised over four hours per week during the non-work time had a 19-percent lower risk of hypertension, or high blood pressure, than participants who said they exercised less than one hour each week. Participants who exercised one to three hours per week during their leisure time had an 11-percent lower risk of hypertension than those with less than an hour of activity.

The findings led the researchers to conclude that the more physical recreation a person gets, the lower their risk of developing high blood pressure.

“Hypertension is a risk factor for cardiovascular and kidney disease — thus, it is important to prevent and control hypertension,” said Dr. Wei Ma, a study co-author and associate professor at the Shandong University School of Public Health in Jinan, China. “To try to lower your risk of high blood pressure, you should exercise more in your leisure time.”

Researchers were not able to make a strong connection between physical exertion at work and risk of high blood pressure. While health guidelines on physical activity don’t distinguish between work activity at leisure exercise, co-author Dr. Bo Xi, a lecturer at the Shandong University School of Public Health, said, “perhaps they should.”

Some physical occupations, such as farm or industrial work, can involve heavy lifting, prolonged standing and repetitive tasks – activities that could cause more physical harm than good.

According to Ma, leisure-time exercise may influence other factors related to high blood pressure — such as keeping off extra pounds, improving sensitivity to insulin or maintaining the blood vessels’ flexibility.

The study researchers emphasized that their finding didn’t point to a cause-and-effect relationship, simply a loose association. Xi said people who frequently exercise for fun may just have healthier lifestyles overall.

Approximately 78 million American adults have hypertension -- as defined by the American Heart Association -- with blood pressure readings at or above 140/90 mmHg. The condition typically has no physical symptoms and goes undetected or untreated in a significant proportion of the population. When blood pressure goes even higher, a condition referred to as "hypertensive crisis,” individuals will often begin to experience symptoms such as dizziness, breathlessness or general malaise.

Doctors generally recommend reducing sodium intake, limiting alcohol consumption and eating a diet rich in fruits in vegetables, in addition to physical exercise, to combat or prevent hypertension.