Frustrated with doctors advising you over and over again to take medication to lower your blood pressure with no mentioning of alternative treatments? Well, the American Heart Association (AHA), following many requests from patients, just released a report recommending exercise and alternative therapies to lower blood pressure. Exercise led the study as the most effective non-medicine approach to reducing high blood pressure followed by breathing exercises with the FDA Cleared Resperate device, and then behavioral therapies like transcendental meditation. The AHA went further to recommend that a combination of alternative therapy is recommended to lower blood pressure and that one approach alone, may not do the job. Furthermore, alternative therapy is not to replace medication if prescribed by a doctor, but included as part of the treatment plan.
The panel of researchers, led by Dr. Robert Book, a professor of medicine from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, specifically indicated that aerobic exercise, resistance or strength training and isometric handgrip exercises demonstrated significant blood pressure lowering results. The big surprise was the considerable blood pressure lowering effect of isometric handgrip exercises. Researchers indicated that, “four weeks of isometric handgrip exercises resulted in some of the most impressive improvements – a 10 percent drop in systolic and diastolic blood pressure.” However, the report warns that, “handgrip exercises should be avoided by patients with severely uncontrolled high blood pressure (180/110 mm Hg or higher).”
Lets get started: What do you need?
You will need to either purchase athletic grippers or a tennis ball, or any other foam or rubber ball as shown in the photographs. Any of these sporting goods, including athletic grippers, can be found at nearly any sporting good store. Grippers generally come in different resistances so you’ll have to choose one appropriate for you.
Recommended Regiment by Researchers
The research report recommends the following regiment for positive blood pressure lowering results with isometric handgrip exercises:
“In regard to isometric handgrip, this consists of several intermittent bouts of handgrip contractions at 30% maximal strength lasting 2 minutes each for a total of 12 to 15 minutes per session. This should be performed at least 3 times per week over 8 to 12 weeks. Although no adverse event have thus far been reported (keeping in mind that most studies have used relatively low-intensity isometric exercises) more data are needed to establish the safety of this modality.”
Keep in mind researchers warned that, “caution is required at this point because only a few relatively small studies have been published. Results from larger-scale high-quality studies are necessary to draw firm conclusions.”
How to slowly build up your strength to achieve the maximum results for your body?
- Hangrip Exercises
Step 1: If you are using handgrips, place one handle of the handgrip against your palm to begin a squeeze-and-release exercise. See the photograph demonstrating how to hold the handgrip.
Step 2: Wrap your fingers around the other handle.
Step 3: Squeeze the handles together as far as you can.
Step 4: Hold the closed position for 5 seconds then slowly release your grip. If you can squeeze it longer then go for it. Try to work up to about 60 to 90 seconds a grip within the first week, if possible. Then increase the intervals each week. With time, as you build strength, you will be able to grip for longer. How long you grip when getting started is not important as long as you consistently perform the exercises and slowly work up the ability to squeeze for longer periods of time. You will eventually get to the recommended 2-minute intervals, 6 to 8 times per day, or you may discover positive results with a shorter grip time.
Step 5: Start with 3 squeezes for each hand for the same amount of time then increase the number of squeezes. If you find that you can increase your repetitions then try 5 to 10 times, but do not over exert yourself. Eventually you will reach the recommended 12 to 15 minute set per day.
Step 6: Repeat the intervals 2 – 3 times per week for at least 5 – 12 weeks to see positive results. We suggest recording your progress in a notebook.
- Ball Squeeze Exercises
For the alternative ball squeeze exercise hold the ball in one hand and start by squeezing it for 5 seconds and release. For what to do next follow the same regiment and instructions set out for handgrip exercises starting with Step 4.
The great thing about this type of exercise, besides its blood pressure lowering ability, is that you can do them anywhere: at home, work, outside, while taking a walk…get creative. You do not need a gym or to put on your exercise gear: sneakers, sweats, a t-shirt, shorts, etc.
According to WebMD and other studies, isometric handgrip exercise results in widening of the arteries and consequently the reduction of blood pressure. Thus, handgrip isometrics may cause a reduction in blood pressure on account of an improvement of the endothelial (the inner lining of blood vessels) function. To see positive results takes time and dedication. Some studies demonstrated reduced blood pressure after 3 times a week for 4 weeks, while other studies took 3 times a week for eight weeks.
Health professionals warn that, handgrip exercises are not a “quick-fix” for high blood pressure. Patients must practice the exercises consistently for five to eight weeks before any changes are apparent. Also, the exercises must be practiced regularly or you may find your blood pressure rates creeping back up again. Handgrip exercises are not a replacement for regular cardiovascular exercise, so be sure to add walking, strength and resistance training, and breathing exercises into your daily routine.