Exercise reduces high blood pressure. Doctors have known this for a long time. But what kind of exercise is best?
A new study in Copenhagen tells us that doing spurts of high-intensity exercise — namely, playing soccer — is a great way to control high blood pressure.
The study involved 25 men aged 31 to 54 who had mild to moderate hypertension. The men were split into two groups.
One group played soccer (in teams of five or six) for about an hour twice a week and the other group received traditional advice from a physician on reducing heart disease risk and staying active.
When tested three months later, the soccer-playing group had improved their health far more than the other group.
They had lowered blood pressure, reduced heart rate, reduced fat on their body and increased aerobic capacity.
“Our advice is to participate in vigorous intermittent physical exercise,” lead author Prof. Peter Krustrup told Metro.
He believes soccer is a great way to get healthy because it is effective and fun; people stick with it, unlike many other exercise regimes.
Krustrup is an Associate Professor in the Department of Exercise and Sport Sciences at the University of Copenhagen, Denmark.
In Canada, hypertension affects one in five adults. It is the number one risk factor for stroke, and a leading risk factor for heart disease.
Because there are no symptoms, it’s often called “the silent killer.”
Having hypertension increases your risk of coronary heart disease, atrial fibrillation, kidney disease and death from any cause.
Although the Danish study was small, it adds to a growing body of evidence that soccer and other interval training activities are a great way to improve health.
Another Danish study showed beneficial effects of interval uphill walking for heart failure patients. And Krustrup has already published studies showing regular recreational soccer training improves many measures of heart health in both men and women.
“If not [soccer],” he says, “perhaps other types of intense intermittent exercise, such as water polo or intermittent swimming, running or cycling.”
Hockey, with its bursts of intense activity followed by rest, may be a great Canadian way to reap the rewards the Danish men had when they played soccer, especially in the winter.
Krustrup’s article was published in the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports.