A team from East Kent Hospitals, Canterbury Christ Church University, the University of Kent’s Centre for Health Services Studies, along with several GP practices in East Kent, will be investigating whether static, or ‘isometric’ exercise, such as squatting in a fixed position reduces blood pressure.
If this preliminary study demonstrates that a larger definitive trial would be feasible to perform across the UK, this could result in isometric exercise being prescribed to many millions of UK adults with high blood pressure – a condition that costs billions to treat every year in the UK.
The team of researchers are also calling for more GP practices across Kent, Medway, Essex and Sussex to take part in the study.
"So far our research has shown that as little as 24 minutes of isometric exercise per week can successfully reduce most people’s blood pressure by a clinically significant amount.
"This in turn dramatically reduces the risk of associated diseases such as cardiovascular disease.
"What hasn’t been shown yet is whether our findings can be reproduced in an NHS primary care setting."
Doctors already advise patients with high blood pressure to make lifestyle changes like stopping smoking and drinking less alcohol. People are also recommended to lose weight, change their diet, and exercise every day, along with taking medication. However, more than half of patients find their blood pressure remains high because they find it hard to stick to these changes and don’t take their medication.
This study will investigate whether prescribing a quick and simple wall squat isometric exercise is easier to stick to and benefits patients.
Consultant Nephrologist (Kidney Specialist) and Hypertension Specialist Dr Tim Doulton, from East Kent Hospitals, said people could potentially see improvements after only a few minutes exercise 3 days a week.
He said: “The much shorter time needed to perform isometric exercise such as a wall squat is a real advantage for people leading busy lives who find it impossible to fit in the recommended amounts of physical activity each week, or who are perhaps too frail or unfit to undertake more traditional forms of exercise.”
Professor Chris Farmer, from UKC’s Centre for Health Services Studies and an East Kent Hospitals Consultant Nephrologist, said: “Our ultimate goal is to prove that spending a few minutes on a specific exercise is a viable alternative to long-term drug therapy for people with high blood pressure.
“Drugs can have undesirable side effects and some lifestyle changes need real commitment, so if our approach works it could prove transformative for thousands of patients.”
The study takes place over 18 months and is funded by the National Institute for Health Research.