health as it happens

Aerobic exercise helps hard-to-treat high blood pressure - Harvard Health

Research we're watching


People whose blood pressure remains high despite taking several medications have what doctors refer to as resistant hypertension. A small study finds that regular aerobic exercise may help these people lower their blood pressure.

The study included 53 people ages 40 to 75 with resistant hypertension, all of whom continued taking their blood pressure medications. Twenty-six were randomly assigned to a supervised exercise program that involved walking, cycling, or a combination of the two for 40 minutes, three times a week, for 12 weeks. The other 27 received usual care, including lifestyle advice. Researchers measured the participants’ 24-hour ambulatory blood pressure at the start and end of the study.

Compared with the usual care group, the exercisers lowered their systolic blood pressure (the first number in a reading) by an average of 7.1 points and their diastolic blood pressure (the second number) by 5.1 points. Doctors already recommend aerobic exercise as a first-line treatment for high blood pressure. These new findings confirm the importance of this advice for people with resistant hypertension, say the authors, whose study was published online August 4, 2021, by JAMA Cardiology.

Image: © skynesher/Getty Images

As a service to our readers, Harvard Health Publishing provides access to our library of archived content. Please note the date of last review or update on all articles. No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.