High blood pressure or hypertension is a major precursor for a heart attack or stroke. Lifestyle modifications, such as increased levels of physical activity, are recommended as the first line of anti-hypertensive treatment. However, this does not have to entail slogging it out in the gym for hours. In fact, researchers have found a simple at-home exercise is just as effective.
Researchers are finding an increased handgrip strength can help both women and men reduce the dangers associated with high blood pressure.
Doctors are also seeing that increasing your hand grip strength often works just as well as medication for reducing hypertension risk.
Isometric exercise, which requires you to put a muscle in tension and hold it without moving, initially raised blood pressure when performed for brief periods.
However, when the exercise was continued over time, blood pressure actually began to fall and remain lower.
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Dr Cheri McGowan and colleagues studied eight people taking blood pressure medication who were 62 years old, on average.
Participants had their blood pressure measured, then started training and performed four sets of isometric handgrip exercises, holding each contraction for two minutes.
Subjects exercised alternate hands three times a week for eight weeks.
After training, their systolic blood pressure dropped significantly.
Researchers used an ultrasound to measure the artery’s interior diameter when blood flow resumed and found that after training, the artery was dilated wider than before.
“Isometric handgrip training improves systolic blood pressure and endothelial [blood vessel] function in persons medicated for hypertension,” wrote McGowan and colleagues.
In another study published in the National Library of Health, 20 weeks of isometric handgrip home training in helping to lower blood pressure in hypertensive older adults was investigated.
Participants in the intervention group performed isometric hand grip (IHG) home training (30 percent of maximum grip strength for a total of eight minutes per day, per hand) three times a week for 20 weeks.
The IHG training consists of isometric contractions applied with the hands on a Wii.
During training sessions, participants were seated on a standard chair with the non-working hand holding on to the Wii at the middle of the board, while the working hand grabbed the corner of the Wii.
Participants alternated between the left and right hand with a one minute resting period between changing hands.
The systematic review showed that isometric handgrip (IHG) training was superior to traditional endurance and strength training in lowering resting systolic blood pressure (SBP).
“If the home-based IHG training is potent in lowering resting blood pressure this type of set-up with home training could be attractive to many patient populations,” concluded the study.
How to do the exercise at home
Squeeze some kind of resistance bar or band with one hand, for two minutes.
Then rest for two minutes and switch to the other hand. Do two sets for each hand.
The challenge is figuring out your maximum amount of effort.
To get the most effect from the exercise, you need to hold for the two minutes at 30 percent of your maximum effort.
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