New findings: Planks can lower blood pressure

Planking is one of the best ways to lower blood pressure, researchers have found. This – along with wall squats – are more effective in lowering blood pressure in people with hypertension than any other type of exercise, according to the analysis of 270 clinical trials carried out over the world. 



Planking is one of the best ways to lower blood pressure, according to new research

Researchers have found that isometric exercises designed to build strength without moving muscles or joints – such as planks and wall squats – can lead to larger falls in blood pressure in people with hypertension than aerobic exercise.

Researchers from Canterbury Christ Church University and Leicester University analysed 270 clinical trials carried out around the world between 1990 and 2023, involving a total of more than 15,000 people, who exercised for two weeks or more.

They looked at how much people’s resting blood pressure dropped after different types of exercise, including aerobic exercise, resistance training and high intensity training, as well as isometric exercises.

While every exercise led to reduced blood pressure, isometric exercises were found to be the most effective.

The researchers say that the blood pressure-lowering effect of isometric exercise is due to it increasing tension in the muscles before a sudden rush of blood when you relax, which increases blood flow.

Current NHS recommendations for managing high blood pressure only include aerobic exercise, such as fast walking of cycling.

But the researchers findings, published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, have prompted them to call for updates to current UK guidelines around exercise to include two minutes of wall squats, or holding the plank position four times with two minutes' rest in between, three times a week.

“Each individual is different, and we’re all more likely to be consistent with the types of exercise we enjoy doing and that suit us,” says Nirmala Markandu, Hypertension Nurse Specialist at Blood Pressure UK.

“Knowing that planks and wall squats are so effective at lowering blood pressure is good news for those of us who want to control their blood pressure without having to take up running through winter, for example.”