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An evidence-based analysis of managing hypertension with isometric resistance exercise—are the guidelines current?


Exercise guidelines for managing hypertension maintain aerobic exercise as the cornerstone prescription, but emerging evidence of the antihypertensive effects of isometric resistance training (IRT) may necessitate a policy update. We conducted individual patient data (IPD) meta-analyses of the antihypertensive effects of IRT. We utilized a one-step fitted mixed effects model and a two-step model with each analyzed trial using a random effects analysis. We classified participants as responders if they lowered their systolic blood pressure (SBP) by ≥5 mmHg, diastolic (DBP) or mean arterial blood pressure (MAP) by ≥3 mmHg. Twelve studies provided data on 326 participants. IRT produced significant reductions in SBP, DBP, and MAP. The SBP responder rates for both groups, or the absolute risk reduction (ARR) between groups, was 28.1% in favor of the IRT group. The number needed to treat (NNT) to achieve one 5 mmHg reduction in SBP was 3.56, 95% CI [2.56, 5.83], or four people. The ARR for DBP was 20.0% in favor of IRT. Therefore, the NNT to achieve one 3 mmHg decrease in DBP was five people, 95% CI [3.22, 11.10]. The ARR for MAP was 28.2% in favor of IRT. Therefore, the NNT to achieve one 3 mmHg reduction in MAP was four people, 95% CI [2.80, 7.42]. Our analyses demonstrated that IRT (three times per week for a total of 8 min of squeezing activity) is able to reduce the participants’ SBP by 6–7 mmHg, equating to a 13% reduction in the risk for myocardial infarction and 22% for stroke.

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Correspondence to Neil A. Smart.

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Smart, N.A., Gow, J., Bleile, B. et al. An evidence-based analysis of managing hypertension with isometric resistance exercise—are the guidelines current?. Hypertens Res 43, 249–254 (2020).

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  • Exercise
  • hypertension
  • epidemiology