Strength training practiced with moderate to vigorous intensity two or three times a week is an effective way to mitigate arterial hypertension (high blood pressure), according to a Brazilian study described in an article published in the journal Scientific Reports.
The mechanisms behind the lowering of blood pressure by aerobic exercise are well studied, but little research has been done on the effects of strength exercise on hypertension along similar lines to this review conducted by researchers at São Paulo State University (UNESP).
Led by Giovana Rampazzo Teixeira, a professor in UNESP’s Department of Physical Education at Presidente Prudente, the group analyzed over 21,000 scientific articles and conducted a Cochrane meta-analysis, considered the gold standard for systematic reviews. According to the authors, the analysis focused on the effects of variables such as age, training dose-response, load, volume and frequency.
Researchers at the University of São Paulo (USP) collaborated on the study, which was funded by FAPESP via three projects (21/14514-2, 20/15324-0 and 19/11924-5).
Cardiovascular diseases are the leading cause of death worldwide, and high blood pressure accounts for 13.8% of deaths from such diseases. Arterial hypertension is diagnosed when systolic blood pressure exceeds 140 millimeters of mercury (mmHg) and/or diastolic pressure exceeds 90 mmHg. It is a multifactorial disorder triggered by such problems as an unhealthy diet, drinking too much alcohol, smoking and a sedentary lifestyle.
We wanted to know if weightlifting alone—or in combination with aerobic exercise—influences one’s risk of early death,” says Jess Gorzelitz, assistant professor of health and human physiology at the University of Iowa, according to the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI).
“So we asked a group of roughly 100,000 older adults about their lifestyle, and then we followed them for about 10 years.” Those who hit the U.S. Physical Activity Guidelines for aerobic activity—150 minutes of moderate or 75 minutes of vigorous activity a week—were nearly a third less likely to die over those 10 years. That’s no surprise, since aerobic activity improves cardiovascular fitness and is linked to a lower risk of several cancers.
“But we also found that weightlifting, independent of aerobic activity, was linked to a 10 to 20 percent lower risk of dying,” says Gorzelitz.
Want the most bang for your buck? Get your heart and your muscles pumping.
Regular physical activity promotes general good health, reduces the risk of developing many diseases, and helps you live a longer and healthier life. For many of us, “exercise” means walking, jogging, treadmill work, or other activities that get the heart pumping.
But often overlooked is the value of strength-building exercises. Once you reach your 50’s and beyond, strength (or resistance) training is critical to preserving the ability to perform the most ordinary activities of daily living — and to maintaining an active and independent lifestyle.
The average 30-year-old will lose about a quarter of his or her muscle strength by age 70 and half of it by age 90. “Just doing aerobic exercise is not adequate,” says Dr. Robert Schreiber, physician-in-chief at Hebrew SeniorLife and an instructor in medicine at Harvard Medical School. “Unless you are doing strength training, you will become weaker and less functional.”