Exercise and Mild Essential Hypertension

Document Type


Publication Date


Publication Title

Sports Medicine


Diastolic Blood Pressure, Exercise Training, Aerobic Exercise Training, Cardiorespiratory Fitness, Maximal Oxygen Uptake


Chronic essential hypertension is a major public health problem afflicting an estimated 15 to 30% of persons from most Western industrialised countries. Persons with mild hypertension (diastolic blood pressure between 90 and 104mm Hg and/or systolic blood pressure between 140 and 159mm Hg) represent the overwhelming majority of hypertensive individuals in the general population. The achievement of long term blood pressure control in these individuals is of central strategic concern in the prevention of hypertension-related morbidity and mortality. Epidemiological studies suggest that regular participation in physical activity may be beneficial in preventing hypertension. The findings of epidemiological studies are supported by a recent meta-analysis of 25 longitudinal aerobic training studies, in which the average sample-size-weighted reductions in resting systolic and diastolic blood pressures were 10.8mm Hg and 8.2mm Hg, respectively. Moreover, preliminary analyses from our centre suggest that cardiorespiratory fitness and, by inference, aerobic exercise training may be of benefit in reducing mortality rates in hypertensive patients. When compiling an exercise prescription with the intention of reducing an elevated blood pressure and attenuating the risk for coronary artery disease, several factors must be considered in order to optimise the likelihood of a safe and effective response. Specifically, the 5 basic components of the exercise prescription for patients with mild hypertension are safety aspects, the type of exercise to be performed, and the frequency, intensity and duration of exercise training. For those patients who require pharmacotherapy, the interaction between the specific antihypertensive agent and exercise responses must also be considered. We recommend that aerobic exercise training be performed at an intensity corresponding to 60 to 85% of the maximal heart rate and that the duration and frequency be modulated to achieve a weekly energy expenditure of between 14 and 20 kcal/kg of body weight.