Background: Regular aerobic exercise is widely recommended for essential hypertensives. However, it is not clear how much exercise is needed to reduce blood pressure (BP).
Methods: The dose-response relation of exercise training and BP was determined using an 8-week exercise intervention study involving 207 untreated subjects with stage 1 or 2 essential hypertension. Subjects were divided into five groups based on the duration and frequency/week of exercise (sedentary control, 30 to 60 min/wk, 61 to 90 min/wk, 91 to 120 min/wk, and >120 min/wk). Age, gender, height, body mass, body mass index, dietary intake, and baseline BP were not different among the groups.
Results: Both systolic and diastolic BP at rest did not change in the nonexercising control group. All four exercise groups demonstrated significant reductions in both systolic and diastolic BP at rest. The magnitude of reductions in systolic BP was greater in the 61 to 90 min/wk group compared with the 30 to 60 min/wk group. There were no greater reductions in systolic BP with further increases in exercise volume. The magnitude of reductions in diastolic BP was not significantly different among four exercise groups. There were no obvious relations between exercise frequency per week and the magnitude of BP decreases with exercise training.
Conclusions: In previously sedentary hypertensive subjects, clinically significant decreases in BP can be achieved with relatively modest increases in physical activity above sedentary levels and that the volume of exercise required to reduce BP may be relatively small that should be reasonably attainable by a sedentary hypertensive population.