Posted by: Hourglass PJ29 AUG 2012
As a regular swimmer who aims to swim 50 lengths at least three times a week, I was interested in recent research suggesting that swimming could improve vascular function and reduce blood pressure.
This US study involved 43 sedentary adults between the ages of 50 and 80 years who were randomly assigned for 12 weeks to supervised regular swimming (three or four times a week) or to supervised relaxation exercises. All participants had a systolic blood pressure of 120–159mmHg at the start.
Adherence to the swimming sessions exceeded 99 per cent and the distance swum increased from a mean of 550m a day in the first week to 1,417m a day in the final week. After 12 weeks of swimming, systolic blood pressure decreased significantly from a mean of 133mmHg at baseline to 122mmHg, but there was no change in blood pressure in the relaxation group. Diastolic blood pressure fell from 76 to 72mmHg in the swimming group but this change was not statistically significant. Swimming also produced a 21 per cent increase in arterial compliance, a 12 per cent decrease in aortic stiffness and a significant improvement in flow mediate dilation.
If confirmed in further studies, such improvements in vascular function and blood pressure would appear to be worthwhile and could possibly reduce the need for antihypertensive medication — for those who enjoy ploughing up and down a pool three or four times a week.