Background: Lifestyle modifications have been recommended as the initial treatment strategy for lowering high blood pressure (BP). However, evidence for the efficacy of exercise and weight loss in the management of high BP remains controversial.
Methods: One hundred thirty-three sedentary, overweight men and women with unmedicated high normal BP or stage 1 to 2 hypertension were randomly assigned to aerobic exercise only; a behavioral weight management program, including exercise; or a waiting list control group. Before and following treatment, systolic and diastolic BPs were measured in the clinic, during daily life, and during exercise and mental stress testing. Hemodynamic measures and metabolic functioning also were assessed.
Results: Although participants in both active treatment groups exhibited significant reductions in BP relative to controls, those in the weight management group generally had larger reductions. Weight management was associated with a 7-mm Hg systolic and a 5-mm Hg diastolic clinic BP reduction, compared with a 4-mm Hg systolic and diastolic BP reduction associated with aerobic exercise; the BP for controls did not change. Participants in both treatment groups also displayed reduced peripheral resistance and increased cardiac output compared with controls, with the greatest reductions in peripheral resistance in those in the weight management group. Weight management participants also exhibited significantly lower fasting and postprandial glucose and insulin levels than participants in the other groups.
Conclusions: Although exercise alone was effective in reducing BP, the addition of a behavioral weight loss program enhanced this effect. Aerobic exercise combined with weight loss is recommended for the management of elevated BP in sedentary, overweight individuals.