People who engage in aerobic forms of exercise, including walking, jogging and cycling, tend to have lower blood pressure than those who mix aerobic exercise with anaerobic activities such as weight training.
While previous studies have shown that regular exercise can cut blood pressure, the new findings suggest aerobic exercise may be the most effective type of activity for lowering blood pressure.
In fact, people who engaged in a mixture of anaerobic and aerobic exercise had similar blood pressures to those who said they engaged in no exercise at all.
It suggests that there"s a detrimental effect of anaerobic exercise that blunts the benefit of running, walking, jogging. Although the study included people aged 25 to 74, only those aged 25 to 44 appeared to have an advantage if they did only aerobic exercise as opposed to a mixture of aerobic and anaerobic workouts.
For older people, those who participated in any type of aerobic exercise -- with or without an anaerobic workout -- tended to have lower pressure than sedentary people.
In the study, the researchers linked blood pressure to type of exercise by examining data collected between 1988 and 1994 by a national survey of health and diet, called the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, or NHANES. They based their findings on data from 10,499 survey respondents.
They noted that 22% of people reported engaging in only aerobic activities, which also included dancing and swimming, while 19% mixed those activities with anaerobic forms of exercise, such as weight lifting and calisthenics. Only 1% said they only engaged in anaerobic exercise.
Most people -- 35% -- said they got their exercise through gardening, but were excluded from the analysis because the researchers could not decide whether gardening was an aerobic or anaerobic form of activity. Twenty-three percent of respondents said they engaged in no exercise at all.
The researchers urged that the public be "cautious" in interpreting these results. The findings do not mean that anaerobic exercise is unhealthy. These results only present a link between blood pressure and different forms of exercise and do not prove that the exercise is actually the cause of the variations in blood pressure. The study cannot determine if blood pressure levels directly stem from the activity types, or are related to some other factor.
17th Annual Scientific Meeting of the American Society of Hypertension May 20, 2002 New York