WE’VE long been told to get up and get moving to boost our health.
But new research suggests that NOT moving may be a real tonic too.
A study has found that static exercises — known as isometric by fitness experts — are better at lowering blood pressure than walking, running or cycling.
A wall squat and plank are among the recommended exercises that can be done anywhere, with no equipment.
Dr Jamie O’Driscoll, author of the study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, said of the exercises: “They increase the tension in the muscles when held for two minutes, then cause a sudden rush of blood when you relax.
“This increases the blood flow — but you must remember to breathe.”
His team at Canterbury Christ Church University examined the results of 270 trials published since 1990, involving nearly 16,000 volunteers, to see what conclusions they could draw about the effect of different workouts on blood pressure.
They believe health authorities should now update guidelines for the prevention and treatment of high blood pressure, or hypertension, which can lead to a heart attack or stroke.
But medical writer Dr Hilary Jones warned against relying too much on squats and planks.
He said: “I looked at the study and the blood pressure-lowering effect was pretty small.
“I’d hate people to think they could just do static exercises twice a day and be protected from heart disease and high blood pressure.
“Other lifestyle issues are going to be much more significant, such as smoking, alcohol and salt intake.”
Here are six low-energy workouts that could take the pressure off.
CALF RAISE HOLD
STAND with weights in each hand, then raise your heels off the ground.
When you are standing as high as possible, hold the position for a minute.
START with your feet slightly wider than hip-width apart, keeping your chest up and out.
Next, lower yourself into a squat position, going as far down as possible. Try to hold it for 30 seconds.
STAND with your feet hip-width apart and hands at your sides.
Next, take a large stride forward with one foot, keeping your chest up and shoulders back.
Your knee should be bent to 90 degrees. Hold for 30 seconds and then repeat with the other leg.
LIE down, with your back flat on the floor, knees raised and arms flat to your sides.
Then gently raise your hips so your backside is off the ground. Once you are in a bridge position try to hold it for ten seconds.
PUSH your back against a wall, with your feet shoulder-width apart.
Next, lower your hips into a sitting position, with knees at a 90-degree angle. Hold the position for at least ten seconds.
GET down as if to do press-ups, with just your toes, hands and forearms in contact with the floor, your forearms parallel with your body.
Keep your body straight, from your head to your heels, and your shoulders down. Hold the position for as long as you can.
By ZOE WILLIAMS, Sun GP
THIS new research is both interesting and useful, particularly when advising patients who are taking up physical activity to try to manage hypertension.
Exercise has been shown to be as effective at reducing blood pressure as medication, so patients should be aware of this and encouraged to build activity into their lives.
It’s important to know that all types of exercise and physical activity are beneficial for mental and physical health.
The bottom line is that being active, however you do it, is the most important thing.
So if you already enjoy a physical activity there is no need to change what you are doing.
But if blood pressure is of concern, then maybe think about adding some of these static exercises into your warm-up.
For people who are inactive, this research tells us that these simple exercises, that can be done at home without cost or equipment, can make a more significant difference to health than perhaps we previously thought.
A good way to build them into your daily routine is by linking them to existing activities that you already do every day – try a plank while the kettle boils, a wall squat while brushing your teeth, or hold a squat for the length of an advert during the ad break of your favourite TV programme.