Exercising in warm water could reduce high blood pressure

The findings of a study into the effects of exercising in warm water have given hope to the many people in the UK who have high blood pressure that has not responded to medication.

High blood pressure, which is also known as hypertension, is one of the main contributory factors of stroke, heart attack, heart disease and kidney failure. Once diagnosed, many people can be successfully treated with medication but for a number of sufferers, conventional treatment is ineffective.

It is well documented that regular exercise can decrease blood pressure but little is known about the effects of heated water based exercise. To understand more, a group of researchers from the University of Sao Paulo, Brazil carried out a study. This involved selecting 32 people who had high blood pressure that had not responded to at least three previous blood pressure medications and who did not take regular exercise.

Over a period of 12 weeks half the group took part in 60-minutes of exercise in a heated pool (32°c), three times a week. The remaining 16 people were told to maintain their usual lifestyle.

The study showed the blood pressure of the people taking part in the warm water exercises falling to levels that are considered to be normal.

Karen Ford, physiotherapist at The Physiotherapy Centre at Holy Cross Hospital, Haslemere says: “Although the study was small and it is not clear whether it was the water, the exercise, the temperature or a combination of all three factors that caused the effect, the results are interesting.

“Our hydrotherapy pool is kept at 34°c which is like a warm bath. We offer a number of water-based classes, which are popular with people who find it difficult to exercise on land or, like our hydrotherapists, just love being in the water. We know that warm water is good for easing pain and if exercising in it also helps to reduce high blood pressure, then that is a good added bonus!”

Anybody is welcome to take part in the exercise classes at The Physiotherapy Centre. Some of the classes are for improving general fitness and mobility while others focus on a particular part of the body such as people who are suffering from back pain or who have had surgery on their hips, knees or ankles. More information can be found at www.thephysiotherapycentre.org.uk

Notes for editors

The original article appeared in the International Journal of Cardiology Vol. 172, Issue 2, Pages 434-441 and the authors are Guilherme Veiga Guimaraes, Lais Galvani de Barros Cruz, Miguel Morita Fernandes-Silva, Egidio Lima Dorea, et al. See http://www.internationaljournalofcardiology.com/article/S0167-5273(14)00311-8/abstract

The Physiotherapy Centre is part of Holy Cross Hospital in Haslemere, Surrey. Holy Cross Hospital is owned by the Congregation of the Daughters of the Cross, which is a registered charity that promotes healthcare and education.