02 June 2020

Pilates may be good medicine for high blood pressure

Mat Pilates benefits cardiovascular health by decreasing blood pressure, arterial stiffness, and body fatness in young obese women with elevated blood pressure, a study shows.

Pilates exercises can do more than help strengthen your abs – the moves may also lower high blood pressure and reduce artery stiffness, new research suggests.

Pilates is a workout programme that focuses on core strength, flexibility, body posture and controlled breathing.

The new study included 28 obese women, aged 19 to 27, with high blood pressure ("hypertension"). The participants were non-smokers, had no chronic diseases, and did less than 90 minutes of regular exercise a week.

For the study, half of the women completed 12 weeks of mat Pilates sessions supervised by a certified instructor. The other 14 women made up a non-exercising control group.

Reduced arterial stiffness and blood pressure

The women in the Pilates group did three one-hour sessions a week, which included 10 minutes of warm-up and stretch, 40 minutes of general mat Pilates exercises, and 10 minutes of cool down. The training intensity increased over the 12 weeks.

By the end of the training period, the Pilates group had significantly reduced arterial stiffness and blood pressure, including central (aortic) pressure, the investigators found. But the study did not prove that Pilates actually causes blood pressure to drop.

The study, published on 1 April in the American Journal of Hypertension, is the first of its kind, according to study author Alexei Wong and his colleagues. Wong is assistant professor in the department of health and human performance at Marymount University, in Arlington, Virginia.

"We hypothesised that mat Pilates might decrease the risk of hypertension in young obese women. Our findings provide evidence that mat Pilates benefit cardiovascular health by decreasing blood pressure, arterial stiffness, and body fatness in young obese women with elevated blood pressure," the researchers wrote.

"Because adherence to traditional exercise (both aerobic and resistance) is low in obese individuals, mat Pilates training might prove an effective exercise alternative for the prevention of hypertension and cardiovascular events in young obese adults," the authors concluded.

High obesity rates among young adults are a major public health issue. Exercise is an important factor in preventing and managing heart health risks, but obese women tend not to stick with traditional workout routines, Wong's team noted in a journal news release.

Image credit: Unsplash


Ask the Expert

Hypertension expert

Dr Jacomien de Villiers qualified as a specialist physician at the University of Pretoria in 1995. She worked at various clinics at the Department of Internal Medicine, Steve Biko Hospital, these include General Internal Medicine, Hypertension, Diabetes and Cardiology. She has run a private practice since 2001, as well as a consultant post at the Endocrine Clinic of Steve Biko Hospital.

Still have a question?

Get free advice from our panel of experts

The information provided does not constitute a diagnosis of your condition. You should consult a medical practitioner or other appropriate health care professional for a physical exmanication, diagnosis and formal advice. Health24 and the expert accept no responsibility or liability for any damage or personal harm you may suffer resulting from making use of this content.

* You must accept our condition

Forum Rules