Imagine if there was a way to delay the increasing risk of high blood pressure as you age? There is, and it’s called exercise and it’s been known to decrease the blood pressure and put the body in an overall healthier state, but a new study has revealed it’s much more important for men than previously thought. Researchers from the University of South Carolina, Columbia published their findings in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, which reveals yet another reason men need to get up and exercise.

"Since regular physical activity is the primary and most modifiable determinant of fitness level, our results underscore the importance for a man to increase his regular physical activity to prevent his natural, aging-related rise in blood pressure," the study’s co-author Junxiu Liu, a Ph.D. candidate from the department of epidemiology and biostatistics, from the University of South Carolina, said in a press release. "To move out of the low fit category, men should do at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity of physical activity such as brisk walking, jogging, running, etc. weekly. This level of activity or exercise is the current recommendation from the United States Department of Health and Human Services."

Researchers analyzed 36 years’ worth of data from 1970 to 2006 to figure out if there is a relationship between cardiorespiratory fitness and the increase of blood pressure with age. The 13,953 men they studied ranged from 20 to 90 years old and were free of hypertension, cardiovascular disease, and cancer throughout the time period. Their level of fitness was measured by a physically demanding exercise test on the treadmill to evaluate their body’s stress levels and blood pressure, which is the force of blood exerted on the walls of your arteries. High blood pressure could damage your heart, lead to heart attack, heart disease, stroke, congestive heart failure, kidney damage, and even vision and memory loss, according to the American Heart Association.

As you exercise, whether it be walking, rowing, biking, or running, your heart rate increases and becomes stronger and more readily effective in pumping blood that carries oxygen in all the vital parts of your body. Cardiorespiratory fitness reflects how efficiently your heart and lungs deliver oxygen throughout your body and how well your body is at creating ATP, which is the energy your muscles use to contract. With one-third of American adult males having high blood pressure, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, artery stiffness is one of the main factors contributing to the natural increase in their blood pressure.

Blood pressure can vary from minute to minute depending on a person’s posture, recent exercise level, stress, or sleep, according to the American Heart Association. Researchers found when a male had low fitness levels, his systolic blood pressure (SBP) levels, which measures the artery pressure when the heat contracts, reaches prehypertension at the age of 46. Meanwhile, his diastolic blood pressure (DBP) measures the pressure in the arteries while muscle is resting and refilling with blood in between beats, and begins to reach prehypertension at age 42. Conversely, the man who takes care of himself with high levels of fitness delays the prehypertension SBP stage by an entire decade, and doesn’t reach DBP prehypertension until he’s approximately 90 years old. A huge difference that should be not be taken lightly for men.

"We now know that a man's hypertension development may be delayed by improving his fitness levels. In other words, men with higher fitness levels experienced normal systolic blood pressure increases later in life than those with low fitness levels,” the study’s co-author Xuemei Sui, assistant professor of exercise science at the University of South Carolina. "Also interesting to note is that when we examined the percentage of body fat data, the systolic and diastolic numbers were not significantly changed. These results support our hypothesis that a man's age-related blood pressure rise was independent of his percentage of body fat."

Source: Liu J and Sui X. Journal of the American College of Cardiology. 2014.