KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Swimming is good medicine for people with high blood pressure who can’t run, walk or bike because of obesity, joint pain and other reasons, a University of Tennessee study shows.
Dr. David Bassett, a UT-Knoxville exercise scientist, and Dr. Hiro Tanaka, a 1995 UT graduate doing postdoctoral work at the University of Colorado, said their work is the first to show that swimming lowers blood pressure over time.
Their findings appear in the current issue of Journal of Hypertension.
“Swimming is often prescribed to prevent or treat hypertension, but no study had ever measured its effectiveness over time,” Bassett said. “Though not as beneficial as running, this study shows that swimming is a important exercise alternative for hypertensive patients who are unable to do land-based exercises.”
Bassett and Tanaka measured blood pressure in 18 hypertensive men and women who did not exercise. Twelve of them began a moderate swimming regimen of 30 to 45 minutes, three days a week, reaching 60 percent of their maximum heart rate while swimming.
After 10 weeks, the swimmers’ resting systolic blood pressure, measured when the heart contracts, dropped an average of six points, Bassett said. This is about half the improvement measured in a comparable running program, he said.
Bassett said previous research has suggested that swimming may not benefit hypertension because blood pressure tends to be higher while swimming than running.
However, lying flat in water rather than being upright, cooler water temperatures, and other factors related swimming may account for these differences, he said.
Contact: Dr. David Bassett (423-974-8766)