Effects of Swimming Training on Blood Pressure and Vascular Function in Adults >50 Years of Age

Study Questions:

Does regular swimming exercise decrease arterial blood pressure (BP) and improve vascular function?


Forty-three otherwise healthy adults >50 years old (mean age 60 years) with prehypertension or stage 1 hypertension and not on any medication were randomly assigned to 12 weeks of swimming exercise or controls. The attention time control group was at the same frequency as subjects in the exercise intervention, and underwent general progressive relaxation exercises and static stretching exercise.


There were no differences between groups at baseline. Body mass index, adiposity, glucose, cholesterol, and inflammatory cytokines did not change in either group throughout the intervention period. Casual systolic blood pressure (BP) (mean [standard deviation]) decreased significantly from 131 [3] to 122 [4] mm Hg in the swimming training group. Significant decreases in systolic BP were also observed in ambulatory (daytime) and central (carotid) BP measurements. Swimming exercise produced a 21% increase in carotid artery compliance (p < 0.05). Flow-mediated dilation and cardiovagal baroreflex sensitivity improved after the swim training program (p < 0.05). There were no significant changes in any measurements in the control group. There was an increase in daily swim distance, but no change in maximal oxygen consumption during treadmill testing with swimming training.


The authors concluded that swimming exercise elicits hypotensive effects and improvements in vascular function in previously sedentary older adults.


Lifestyle change with a low-salt diet usually reduces the need for one drug, with about a 10 mm Hg drop in systolic and 5 mm Hg in diastolic pressure. The effect of swimming on BP was limited to systolic pressures, but the changes in baroreflex and carotid compliance are impressive. Swimming and water aerobics are particularly good exercises for elderly people who have orthopedic limitations.

Clinical Topics: Diabetes and Cardiometabolic Disease, Heart Failure and Cardiomyopathies, Prevention, Sports and Exercise Cardiology, Vascular Medicine, Diet, Exercise, Hypertension

Keywords: Arterial Pressure, Blood Pressure, Prehypertension, Cardiovascular Physiological Phenomena, Oxygen Consumption, Exercise Therapy, Cardiology, Cardiovascular Diseases, Muscle Stretching Exercises, Obesity, Diet, Hypertension, Swimming

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