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Handgrip exercise can help with blood pressure

New research from the University of New England suggests a simple handgrip exercise might be a safe way to help people at risk of cardiovascular disease to manage blood pressure.

Those who can’t perform the recommended levels of aerobic exercise could use an isometric handgrip (IHG) as an effective alternative method for lowering blood pressure.

Debra Carlson from the university’s School of Science and Technology said the research found that simple exercises with isometric handgrip dynamometers were enough to lower blood pressure.

Reductions in systolic blood pressure after eight weeks were comparable to those seen in aerobic exercise studies.

Ms Carlson’s team conducted a randomised trial involving 40 participants training at two different intensities of isometric handgrip exercise.

Participants attended three times a week for eight weeks to determine the effect on blood pressure during IHG, and after eight weeks of training.

Researchers took continual blood pressure measurements prior to participants starting the study, during IHG exercise, and again at the end to see the effect of the exercise on their blood pressure.

The study demonstrated that eight weeks of IHG exercise lowers blood pressure, with minimal effect on Rate Pressure Product in pre-mild hypertensive participants during the handgrip exercise.

“The participants sat in a chair and squeezed a hand dynamometer for two minutes and then would rest for three minutes, then squeeze again, until they had completed four isometric handgrip repetitions,” Ms Carlson said.

“Rate pressure product during IHG wasn’t as substantial as those seen during moderate and vigorous aerobic exercise in previous studies. The data does show that there is a positive relationship between blood pressure and intensity of isometric handgrip exercise.

“We would recommend for future research would be to conduct Isometric Resistance Training and aerobic exercise with participants to get a direct comparison in the two exercise modalities within the same cohort.”

Cardiovascular disease remains the leading cause of death, representing about 31 per cent of global mortality. High blood pressure is the biggest risk factor, with almost 34 per cent of Australian adults having hypertension or taking anti-hypertensive medications. 

Chris Johnson