A study shows that isometric exercises, where you contract large muscles without actually moving the body part, may help reduce blood pressure in healthy people. And something as simple as squeezing your inner thigh muscles together while you sit would qualify.
That’s right. Isometric exercises can be done anytime, anywhere, and they don’t require you to bend or lift. In a handful of studies, folks with normal blood pressure who did three 15 to 20 minutes sessions of isometric exercises every week for ten weeks experienced more than a 10-point plunge in their systolic blood pressure. And their diastolic pressure fell by almost 7 points. Not bad for not lifting a finger! Simple things like doing a static handgrip, flexing the bottom muscles, or leg squeezes all count. In the research, the three weekly sessions included multiple 2-minute rounds of isometric exercises like those, with 1 to 3-minute rests in between.
A handgrip spring dynamo-meter was used in one study for IHG (Isometric Handgrip) exercise training. A total of 30 regular healthy volunteers in the 20-40 y were enrolled in the study. The exercise training protocol consisted of five 3-min bouts of IHG exercise at 30% of maximum voluntary contraction separated by 5 min rest periods. The exercise was performed three times/wk for 10 wk. The subject’s blood pressure was measured before and after exercise.
There was a significant reduction in resting blood pressure following 10 wk of exercise training. In addition, both Systolic and Diastolic blood pressure reduced significantly.
In the mid-1970s, the U.S. Air Force asked Dr. Ronald Wiley, an expert in heart and lung physiology, to find a way to keep fighter pilots from losing consciousness when flying the F-16 fighter. This jet could accelerate so fast that its G-forces made it difficult for the pilot’s heart to pump blood to the brain, causing vision problems, trouble thinking, and blackouts.
One of Wiley’s strategies was a handgrip that pilots could squeeze to boost their blood pressure enough to maintain circulation to the brain. But, as he worked with pilots, he was struck by a contradiction” Those who practiced with the handgrip for a few weeks lowered their resting blood pressure.
Types of Isometric Exercise
Lie down in the pushup position and place your elbows under your chest. Next, rest your body on the floor. Now, the entire weight of your body will be concentrated on your forearms. Next, push up your body and count to 10. Hold this position for 10 seconds and repeat 2 to 3 times. This is one of the simplest forms of isometric exercises, which can be performed daily.
Isometric Push Up
Get into the pushup position and lie down with your arms extended. Lower your body to the halfway position and hold for about 10 seconds or count slowly until 10. This exercise can be repeated 2 or 3 times, depending on your fitness level. Most isometric exercises are not very tiring, but you must take them slowly if you’re a beginner.
Isometric Bicep Exercise
This is the most straightforward isometric exercise, and it can be quickly done at the office. First, please put your hands under the desk and place them against the tabletop, with your palms up. Now, press against the tabletop, keeping your elbows tight against your ribs. Hold your hands in this position for 10 seconds or count slowly until 10, and then repeat 2 to 3 times.
Isometric Shoulder Raises
For this exercise, you will need a pair of dumbbells. First, hold one dumbbell in each hand and stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Next, raise both arms upwards from the side until they’re parallel to the ground. Hold them in this position for about 10 to 25 seconds, and repeat 2 to 3 times. If you find it difficult to raise both hands simultaneously, you can start by raising one hand at a time.
The ball squeeze exercise requires only a tennis ball or any small ball. Hold the ball in one hand and squeeze it for 60 to 90 seconds. Then, place the ball in your other hand and repeat the squeeze simultaneously. Repeat the exercise three times with each hand.
Athletic Gripper Hold
Athletic grippers can be found at nearly any sporting goods store. Grippers generally come in different resistances, so you’ll have to choose one appropriate. Ideally, you should use one that you can squeeze for two minutes before your muscles fatigue. Hold the athletic gripper in one hand and press it for two minutes, then switch hands and repeat the exercise. Complete the activity twice with each hand.
Practicing isometric exercises offers various benefits to our body, and they are:
- Isometric exercises help in strengthening and conditioning muscles.
- They aid in strengthening dormant muscle tissues on isolated muscles.
- They improve one’s control over the body.
- Improve body posture and spine alignment.
- Help in preventing injury.
- These exercises are used in injury rehabilitation.
- Support in the development of lean muscles.
- Improve bone density and make them strong.
- Increase resistance power and endurance ability.
- These exercises activate all the central units in the body.
- These exercises can be done anywhere and anytime.
- Most isometric exercises do not require any equipment, or at most, a set of dumbbells is enough.
- Help in graceful aging, keeping body posture straight and erect even in old age.
- Older people can also do these exercises, and are considered suitable for them.
As with any new exercise routine, please speak with your family practitioner to see if you can start this practice. I would start with the isometric handgrip exercises for those diagnosed with high blood pressure. Isometric exercises using the plank or weights can cause spikes in blood pressure. Again please consult your physician.