Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is one of the top health concerns not only in the United States, but around the world. In fact, researchers expect that the number of people worldwide with hypertension will increase to an astounding 1.56 billion by 2025!
A blood pressure reading contains two numbers. The top number is the systolic pressure — the measure of blood pressure in the arteries when the heart is beating. The bottom number is the diastolic pressure — the blood pressure in the arteries in between beats, when the heart is relaxed.
Hypertension is defined as a systolic pressure of 140 mmHg or more, and/or a diastolic pressure of 90 mmHg or more. And having high blood pressure puts you at a considerably greater risk for stroke, cardiovascular disease and other heart-related problems.
Exercise the Hypertension Away
The best and most effective way to lower high blood pressure naturally is through exercise. Many studies have examined exercises like walking, jogging/running, and bicycling, and found that each of these workouts can lead to a significant reduction in blood pressure in people with hypertension. However, not many studies have looked at the impact of swimming or water workouts on blood pressure.
One would beg to reason that swimming is a form of aerobic exercise, therefore it would, in fact, help to lower blood pressure. But some studies have suggested that swimming might not be all that effective in reducing resting blood pressure, partly because the blood pressure of trained swimmers, as a whole, is higher than the blood pressure of other endurance athletes. (Researchers note several things could cause this, including holding the breath underwater, water temperature, and the supine position used while swimming.)
So, considering the lack of research on water workouts and hypertension, one study aimed to find out what, if any, effect this type of exercise had on blood pressure.
Forty men with mild to moderate hypertension (blood pressure between 140/90 mmHg and 180/110 mmHg) were divided into two groups: intervention and control. Both groups were advised to make heart-healthy lifestyle adjustments — in particular, to lose weight, limit salt intake, and cease smoking and drinking. In addition, the men in the intervention group participated in a 10-week water aerobics program for 55 minutes, three times a week.
Blood pressure in the test subjects was measured at baseline, and again 48 hours after the last water workout session so that researchers could avoid the acute effects of the exercise (temporarily higher blood pressure).
At the end of the study, researchers discovered that the 10-week water aerobic session lowered the systolic and mean arterial (average) blood pressure of the test group by 11.71 mmHg and 5.9 mmHg, respectively.
According to a prior published study, a 5 mmHg reduction in systolic pressure “would result in a 14 percent overall reduction in mortality due to stroke, a 9 percent reduction in mortality due to coronary heart disease, and a 7 percent decrease in all-cause mortality.”
So the 11.71 mmHg decrease in systolic pressure thanks to water aerobics is double those percentages!
So, with that, they concluded that water workouts do, in fact, have a significant effect on hypertension, and this type of exercise is an excellent option for people who are overweight, elderly or have orthopedic problems.
Make Water Workouts Work for You
If you suffer from hypertension or cardiovascular disease, water workouts are a fun way to exercise your heart and lower high blood pressure naturally. If you don’t have a pool of your own, consider joining your local YMCA or a gym that has an indoor pool. These places almost always offer swimming lessons and/or water aerobics classes.
Remember, you don’t have to be an avid swimmer to take advantage of the heart benefits of water workouts. Simply walking from one side of the shallow end to the other can get your heart pumping and blood flowing. So jump in and get moving!
 Kearney PM, Whelton M, Reynolds K et al. Global burden of hypertension: analysis of worldwide data. Lancet. 2005;365, 217–223.
 Farahani A et al. The effects of a 10-week water aerobic exercise on the resting blood pressure in patients with essential hypertension. Asian J Sports Med. 2010 Sep; 1:3, 159–167.
 Chobanian AV, Bakris GL, Black HR et al. The Seventh Report of the Joint National Committee on Prevention, Detection, Evaluation, and Treatment of High Blood Pressure: the JNC report. JAMA. 2003;289, 2560-2772.