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Exercise just might be your next heart-healthy prescription: Sweaty workouts may be able to lower your high blood pressure just as much as prescription meds can, new research just published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine suggests.
Researchers collected data from 194 clinical trials that focused on medications designed to lower systolic blood pressure (the top number in your BP reading), and 197 trials that included data on the impact of structured exercise such as cycling, running, swimming, and strength training.
After crunching the numbers, researchers found that blood pressure was lower for those taking antihypertensive medications than those who were working out.
But, when they limited their analysis to people with high blood pressure, well, that told a different story: In that case, exercise seemed to be just as effective as most medications in lowering their levels.
Exercise has long been considered one of the top ways to help lower blood pressure: A tough workout increases the strength and efficiency of your heart, so it doesn’t need to work as hard to do everything it needs to do to keep you riding.
Although the results are promising, the findings shouldn’t lead you to ditch any medications you might be on, and jump on your bike instead, said lead study author, Huseyin Naci, Ph.D., M.H.S., an assistant professor of health policy at the London School of Economics and Political Science.
That’s because the study has some limitations, mainly due to the lack of research on physical activity as a standalone option for lowering blood pressure.
“The amount of information on exercise interventions is substantially smaller than that on drugs, especially among hypertensive populations,” Naci said.
That said, the evidence is compelling and should warrant further research.
In the meantime, consider the preventive effects of your regular ride: There is already plenty up substantial evidence backing up the connection between exercising and better heart health.
So if you’re looking for a good way to keep your heart going strong and reduce your risk of blood-pressure-related issues, there are big benefits to keeping your exercise routine. (Have heart issues and want to ramp up your rides? Just chat with your doctor first to make sure any activity increase is safe, Naci said).