Effect of aerobic exercise on blood pressure: a meta-analysis of randomized, controlled trials

Ann Intern Med. 2002 Apr 2;136(7):493-503. doi: 10.7326/0003-4819-136-7-200204020-00006.


Purpose: Physical activity has been associated with reduced blood pressure in observational epidemiologic studies and individual clinical trials. This meta-analysis of randomized, controlled trials was conducted to determine the effect of aerobic exercise on blood pressure.

Data sources: English-language articles published before September 2001.

Study selection: 54 randomized, controlled trials (2419 participants) whose intervention and control groups differed only in aerobic exercise.

Data extraction: Using a standardized protocol and data extraction form, three of the investigators independently abstracted data on study design, sample size, participant characteristics, type of intervention, follow-up duration, and treatment outcomes.

Data synthesis: In a random-effects model, data from each trial were pooled and weighted by the inverse of the total variance. Aerobic exercise was associated with a significant reduction in mean systolic and diastolic blood pressure (-3.84 mm Hg [95% CI, -4.97 to -2.72 mm Hg] and -2.58 mm Hg [CI, -3.35 to -1.81 mm Hg], respectively). A reduction in blood pressure was associated with aerobic exercise in hypertensive participants and normotensive participants and in overweight participants and normal-weight participants.

Conclusions: Aerobic exercise reduces blood pressure in both hypertensive and normotensive persons. An increase in aerobic physical activity should be considered an important component of lifestyle modification for prevention and treatment of high blood pressure.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Blood Pressure / physiology*
  • Body Mass Index
  • Body Weight / physiology
  • Exercise / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hypertension / ethnology
  • Hypertension / physiopathology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Obesity / ethnology
  • Obesity / physiopathology