The role of exercise training in the treatment of hypertension: an update

Sports Med. 2000 Sep;30(3):193-206. doi: 10.2165/00007256-200030030-00004.


Hypertension is a very prevalent cardiovascular (CV) disease risk factor in developed countries. All current treatment guidelines emphasise the role of nonpharmacological interventions, including physical activity, in the treatment of hypertension. Since our most recent review of the effects of exercise training on patients with hypertension, 15 studies have been published in the English literature. These results continue to indicate that exercise training decreases blood pressure (BP) in approximately 75% of individuals with hypertension, with systolic and diastolic BP reductions averaging approximately 11 and 8mm Hg, respectively. Women may reduce BP more with exercise training than men, and middle-aged people with hypertension may obtain greater benefits than young or older people. Low to moderate intensity training appears to be as, if not more, beneficial as higher intensity training for reducing BP in individuals with hypertension. BP reductions are rapidly evident although, at least for systolic BP, there is a tendency for greater reductions with more prolonged training. However, sustained BP reductions are evident during the 24 hours following a single bout of exercise in patients with hypertension. Asian and Pacific Island patients with hypertension reduce BP, especially systolic BP, more and more consistently than Caucasian patients. The minimal data also indicate that African-American patients reduce BP with exercise training. Some evidence indicates that common genetic variations may identify individuals with hypertension likely to reduce BP with exercise training. Patients with hypertension also improve plasma lipoprotein-lipid profiles and improve insulin sensitivity to the same degree as normotensive individuals with exercise training. Some evidence also indicates that exercise training in hypertensive patients may result in regression of pathological left ventricular hypertrophy. These results continue to support the recommendation that exercise training is an important initial or adjunctive step that is highly efficacious in the treatment of individuals with mild to moderate elevations in BP.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • African Americans
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Blood Pressure
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / prevention & control
  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • European Continental Ancestry Group
  • Exercise / physiology*
  • Exercise Therapy*
  • Female
  • Genotype
  • Glucose / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Hypertension / ethnology
  • Hypertension / genetics
  • Hypertension / therapy*
  • Hypertrophy, Left Ventricular / prevention & control
  • Insulin / metabolism
  • Lipids / blood
  • Lipoproteins / blood
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Physical Endurance
  • Polymorphism, Genetic
  • Risk Factors
  • Sex Factors
  • Time Factors
  • Triglycerides / blood
  • Weight Loss


  • Insulin
  • Lipids
  • Lipoproteins
  • Triglycerides
  • Glucose