HEALTHJUN 26, 2024

How Much Exercise is Needed to Control Blood Pressure?

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A UCSF study finds that the current exercise guidelines may be insufficient for controlling blood pressure, especially for those over 40. Discover how increasing your weekly exercise to five hours can significantly reduce the risk of hypertension and improve heart health.


Maintaining a healthy blood pressure is crucial for preventing heart disease, stroke, and other serious health conditions. While it's well-known that regular exercise can help manage blood pressure, new research from UCSF suggests that the current minimum exercise guidelines may not be sufficient, particularly as we age. This article explores the findings of this study and provides insights into how much exercise is necessary to effectively control blood pressure.

Current Exercise Guidelines

The current guidelines from health organizations recommend that adults engage in at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week, which translates to about 2.5 hours. Activities such as brisk walking, cycling, and swimming fall into this category. However, this new study indicates that more exercise may be needed to achieve optimal cardiovascular health, especially as people reach middle age.

Key Findings from the UCSF Study

The UCSF study, led by researchers at the UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospitals, followed approximately 5,000 adults aged 18 to 30 over a span of 30 years. The participants' exercise habits, medical histories, smoking status, and alcohol use were recorded, and their blood pressure and other health markers were monitored.

Major Conclusions:

Increased Exercise Requirement: The study found that adults need about five hours of moderate-intensity exercise per week to protect against midlife hypertension. This is double the current minimum recommendation.

Long-Term Benefits: Participants who maintained higher levels of physical activity (at least five hours per week) from young adulthood into middle age had an 18% lower risk of developing hypertension compared to those who exercised less.

Significant Impact on Hypertension Rates: The likelihood of developing high blood pressure was even lower for those who consistently exercised at these higher levels until age 60.

Mechanisms Behind Exercise and Blood Pressure Control

Regular exercise helps manage blood pressure through several mechanisms:

  • Improving Heart Health: Exercise strengthens the heart, enabling it to pump blood more efficiently, which reduces the pressure on arteries.
  • Weight Management: Physical activity helps maintain a healthy weight, reducing the risk of obesity-related hypertension.
  • Reducing Stress: Exercise lowers stress hormones like cortisol, which can contribute to high blood pressure.
  • Enhancing Blood Vessel Function: Regular physical activity improves the elasticity of blood vessels, allowing them to expand and contract more effectively.

Recommendations for Physical Activity

Based on the study's findings, individuals should aim for the following:

Increase Exercise Duration: Aim for at least five hours of moderate-intensity exercise per week. This can be broken down into manageable daily sessions, such as 45 minutes per day.

Incorporate Variety: Engage in different types of exercise to keep routines interesting and address different muscle groups. Include activities like walking, jogging, cycling, swimming, and strength training.

Consistency is Key: Maintain a regular exercise schedule throughout life, starting from young adulthood to older age.

Monitor Health: Regularly check blood pressure and consult with healthcare providers to tailor exercise programs to individual health needs.


The UCSF study underscores the importance of exceeding the current minimum exercise guidelines to effectively control blood pressure and reduce the risk of hypertension, especially as people age. By committing to at least five hours of moderate-intensity exercise each week, individuals can significantly improve their cardiovascular health and overall well-being.

For more detailed insights, you can read the full study on the UCSF website.

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