The researchers recommend blood pressure patients to maintain a regular routine of exercise for maximum benefits and continue taking their medication, until further clinical trials.
Periodic physical activity can lower the systolic blood pressure that is expressed as the top number in blood pressure reading. However, it is still not clear if active lifestyle can replace medication in regulating the blood pressure.
Exercise vs Medication
Lead author Dr. Huseyin Naci, from the Department of Health Policy, London School of Economics and Political Science, and his colleagues analyzed data from 194 trials studying the effects of drugs in lowering the blood pressure. They also looked at 197 trials that used exercise to reduce hypertension.
These trials included almost 40,000 participants, both with and without hypertension. However, none of them compared exercise head to head against medication.
The study finding published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine revealed that exercise was just as effective as medication in regulating the blood pressure. In fact, exercise was more helpful than drugs in people with blood pressure over 140 mm Hg.
Researchers, however, cautioned that this study does not mean that people can stop taking their blood pressure medication.
"We don't think, on the basis of our study, that patients should stop taking their antihypertensive medications," says Naci.
Naci and his team hopes that their findings will allow evidence-based discourse between the patients and their clinicians.
The Uphill Battle
According to the researchers, combining endurance with resistance training is extremely effective in reducing the systolic blood pressure. However, it is easier said than done because as many as 40 percent of the adults in the United States and Europe lead an inactive lifestyle.
"It's one thing to recommend that physicians start prescribing exercise to their patients, but we also need to be cognizant of the resource implications and ensure that the patients that have been referred to exercise interventions can adhere to them and so really derive benefit," Naci said in a statement.
The researchers also reveal that ever since the clinical practice guidelines have lowered the threshold for systolic blood pressure to 130 mm Hg, the prescription for blood pressure lowering drugs has witnessed a sharp increase.
However, it will prove to be an uphill battle to substitute exercise for drugs as most people suffering from high blood pressure also have other long-term conditions.