Do This With Your Hands To Lower High Blood Pressure

If you've been focusing on full-body workouts to lower high blood pressure levels, you might be surprised to learn that adding in a hands-only workout may further support your health goals. Blood pressure readings that measure less than 120/80 millimeters of mercury (mmHg) are considered within the normal range, while individuals with readings of 130/90 mmHg or above meet the diagnostic criteria for hypertension, or high blood pressure, reports the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Findings from a 2023 study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine found that isometric exercises that require us to hold our positioning while actively engaging the muscles (think planks, bridges, or yoga poses) may be particularly helpful in lowering high blood pressure. But additional research suggests that we might want to add handgrip strength training exercises to this list. This was evidenced in an earlier 2007 study published in Blood Pressure Monitoring, which found that people taking blood pressure-lowering medications who participated in isometric handgrip (IHG) exercise training three days a week for a total of eight weeks saw decreases in resting blood pressure measurements.

Handgrip exercises may lower blood pressure in people with alternate health conditions

More recent research has yielded similar results regarding handgrip exercises and reductions in blood pressure, even for people with additional heart issues or other health problems. Researchers from a 2020 study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association set out to determine if handgrip exercises affected blood pressure measurements in patients with peripheral artery disease. Participants engaged in three exercise sessions weekly for eight weeks that involved doing four sets of hand contractions held for two minutes with four minutes of rest in between. Those in the training group utilized a handgrip device, while those in the control group were given a compression ball. Participants in the intervention group experienced improvements in circulation and drops in brachial diastolic blood pressure — measurements taken from the brachial artery in the arm.

Perhaps in addition to improving blood pressure in patients with peripheral artery disease, a 2022 study in Korea published in Frontiers in Physiology found that greater handgrip strength was associated with decreased blood pressure in patients with hypertension, including those with visceral adipose dysfunction (VAD), which has been seen in connection with obesity. Of course, some of us naturally have a stronger grip than others. If you're struggling to twist open that bottle cap, here's why you may have poor grip strength

Try out handgrip exercises while in a relaxed state

While it may be worth practicing a couple handgrip exercises on that stubborn pickle jar, it's important to note that not all studies on the subject have had the same outcomes. In fact, 2023 research published in the Journal of Human Hypertension showed that the greater the handgrip strength in individuals with obesity or overweight, the more likely they were to have high blood pressure.

Not only that, but a small, slightly earlier study published in 2011 in the Cardiovascular Journal of Africa found that short-term handgrip strength training was no more effective in reducing blood pressure in middle-aged women in comparison to sitting quietly for 15 minutes daily. Both techniques were found to be effective, with the researchers theorizing that relaxation may have played a role in the blood pressure-lowering effects of sitting still, as stress may influence high blood pressure. In light of these findings, perhaps it can't hurt to combine the two, and spend 15 minutes a day quietly reflecting while getting in a few handgrip squeezes at the same time.