Handgrip Exercises for Lower Blood Pressure
You probably know that regular aerobic/cardio exercise is important for reducing high blood pressure.
Aerobic exercise is activity that gets your heart and lungs working harder, and it can be anything from walking to swimming, to raking up leaves or cleaning the floor.
But did you know you can also lower your blood pressure by just sitting around squeezing something for quarter of an hour a day?
Doing hand-grip exercises for lower blood pressure could be the easiest way to lower your blood pressure that’s been discovered….
Isometric hand-grip exercise
Isometric exercise involves using muscular force, but without movement, and some forms of isometric exercise have been found to have surprising benefits for blood pressure.
The main type studied is isometric hand-grip exercise which basically involves gripping something with your hand, to contract the muscles in your arm, but without moving your arm itself.
This might not sound like much but it turns out that doing it regularly can lower your blood pressure over time.
This was discovered by accident in the 1970s, by a scientist working with US fighter pilots to help them deal with high G-forces when flying. He developed a device that they could squeeze with their hands, to temporarily raise their blood pressure just enough to stop them blacking out.
It worked, but then they found it had a great side-effect – it had lowered the blood pressure of those pilots who’d had high blood pressure (and who were doing this hand-squeezing exercise regularly).
*a range of devices for doing hand-grip exercises for lower blood pressure are outlined below*
Benefits of hand-grip exercises for lower blood pressure
Many studies have been done since then on the effects of doing isometric handgrip exercises for lower blood pressure, and a report published by the American Heart Association in April 2013 concluded that such handgrip exercises produce “significant reductions” in blood pressure.
In fact, recent reviews of isometric hand-grip exercise studies show drops in blood pressure of 10%. It’s not completely clear to medical researchers how hand-grip exercises lower blood pressure, but research suggests it works in at least three ways:
- it balances your autonomic nervous system – which regulates all the things you don’t have to think about, including blood pressure
- it improves the condition of your blood vessels, repairing any damage
- it encourages your blood vessels to dilate, allowing freer blood flow
Isometric hand-grip exercise affects blood pressure in a different way to aerobic exercise so it’s worth doing, even if you’re getting plenty aerobic exercise. Also, this hand-grip exercise on its own has been shown to be effective at lowering blood pressure, so if you’re not able to be more active, it’s a great way to improve your blood pressure.
A big advantage of doing hand-grip exercises for lower blood pressure is that it doesn’t take a lot of time. You only need to do it for about 12 minutes a day, several times a week, and you can do it pretty much anywhere – standing up, sitting down, watching TV….so it’s a small commitment for potentially impressive results.
Mind you, the effects take some time to manifest – it may take a month or two. So you need to keep doing it – you’ll continue to feel the benefits as long as you continue to do the exercises.
For more easy exercises to lower blood pressure, click here to get our free report, 3 Exercises to Lower Blood Pressure (without getting out of your chair).
How to do hand-grip exercises for lower blood pressure
Isometric hand-grip exercises for lower blood pressure are pretty straightforward. They basically consist of squeezing or gripping something for 2 minutes at a time, at about a third of your full grip-strength, and doing this several times.
Click here for detailed instructions on how to do hand grip exercises to lower blood pressure
You need something to squeeze though, and there are a range of different devices that you can use for doing handgrip exercises, ranging from the very cheap to the very expensive.
Hand-grip devices for lowering blood pressure
The Zona Plus
The Zona Plus (formerly called ‘CardioGrip’) is a more sophisticated version of the device originally used with the fighter pilots, and was developed by the same scientific team to focus specifically on lowering blood pressure.
It’s a portable computerised handheld device, with a screen which gives you instructions on how to do the hand-grip exercises.
The advantage of the Zona Plus is that it calibrates itself to your grip strength, and then guides you through a series of squeezes, at exactly the right effort-level for you to get the maximum benefits for your blood pressure. However, at $599, that’s a high price to pay for some fancy software and there are now simpler devices available that perform the same essential functions.
For more details, click here for our Zona Plus review.
UPDATE 2020: Please note that we no longer recommend purchasing the Zona Plus – not due to any problem with the device itself but due to our loss of trust in the company behind the Zona Plus. See our Zona Plus Review for some details.
Other hand-grip exercise devices
You can do hand-grip exercises using ordinary hand-grip strengtheners. These are usually in the form of spring-loaded handles which you have to squeeze together. You can also use a squeezy de-stress-ball, or any rubber ball really.
There are now also devices which show your grip strength as you’re gripping so, as long as you keep an eye on it, you can make sure to grip the right amount. (Just grip with your full strength first and record the figure show, divide this amount by three, then when gripping, aim to be gripping that amount.)
Here’s a sample of devices you can buy online which you can use to do IHG exercises.
Easy handgrippers – reviews say they ones are quite easy to squeeze so these could be good to start with or if you don’t have particularly strong hands. Remember, you only need to be gripping something at a third of your full strength so you don’t want a device that’s too difficult for you to squeeze:
If you need something stronger, you can always try these… (they come in a range of different strengths):
Or go for a good old squeeze ball. This one is recommended for IHG exercises by a member of our mailing list!
And last but not least, the Camry digital hand dynamometer – this handgripper shows your grip strength in real time so you can grip accurately as required:
Zona Plus vs. other devices
So: is it necessary – or best – to buy the Zona Plus? Or is it good enough to use something less expensive?
Advantages of the Zona Plus
The effectiveness of using the Zona Plus is well-documented
Many of the clinical studies showing the effectiveness of IHG exercise for lowering blood pressure have used the Zona Plus device. According to the makers of the Zona Plus, since it became commercially available, tens of thousands of people have used it, and 9 out of 10 users have lower blood pressure after 6-8 weeks of using it.
The Zona Plus is approved by the US FDA for improving cardiovascular health, and in the European Union and Canada it’s also officially endorsed as a clinically proven treatment for high blood pressure.
It’s easier to do hand-grip exercises accurately using the Zona Plus
When doing hand-grip exercises using other devices, it may be quite tricky to accurately gauge whether you’re gripping at 30% of your maximum grip, which is what’s recommended to give you the desired effects.
However, because the Zona Plus calibrates itself to your grip strength each time you use it, it guides you to grip at exactly the right strength to give you exactly the most effective intensity of exercise – enough to trigger the blood-pressure-reducing-effects but not too much strain on your body. The level of effort set by the Zona Plus is also designed to minimise the temporary blood pressure spike you get when doing IHG exercise.
According to the Zona Plus manufacturers, it’s quite a narrow window between what’s not enough and what’s too much, so they say you can’t get the same effects by just squeezing a ball or handgripper….
UPDATE: As mentioned above, there is now a device called the Camry digital hand dynamometer which also allows you to view your grip strength, so you can check you’re gripping the correct amount. There are probably other similar devices too.
Advantages of other devices
The main advantage of using other devices for hand-grip exercise is that they cost a lot less. You can get squeezy stress ball or hand-grippers for under $30, or you can even just buy a cheap rubber ball from the Dollar Store or Pound Shop. And of course there are devices like the Camry dynamometer which show your grip strength as you’re using them. These are ideal for ensuring you’re doing the hand grip exercises adequately and are also priced around $30.
Some blood pressure sufferers have reported good results using these cheaper devices, on various internet forums and review websites. And at least one clinical study demonstrated a significant blood pressure-reducing effect using an inexpensive spring-loaded handgrip strengthener.
Whatever you try, remember that it can take up to a couple of months (occasionally longer) to really see the effects, so you have to stick with it and do the exercises regularly for them to work.
Safety of hand-grip exercises
Hand-grip exercises are safe to do for pretty much everyone. The main exceptions are if you have problems with your hands, like arthritis, or carpal tunnel syndrome, in which case you might find it too difficult to squeeze effectively.
The other exception may be if you have very high blood pressure. This is because hand-grip exercise works to reduce your resting blood pressure – i.e., your blood pressure when you’re not exercising. However, you often get a temporary spike in blood pressure whilst doing the exercises. This usually resolves itself within a few minutes, but if your blood pressure is very high, this may be a little risky.
The American Heart Association recommends that “isometric exercise should be avoided among individuals with BP levels >180/110 mm Hg until their hypertension is better controlled.” (Hypertension journal, April 2013) If you have any concerns regarding the suitability of hand-grip exercises for yourself, speak to your doctor before starting.
Will doing hand-grip exercises be enough to lower my blood pressure?
Hand grip exercises don’t seem to work for everyone to lower blood pressure, but research suggests they do work for most. So there’s a good chance that doing hand-grip exercises regularly can make a difference to your blood pressure. However, even so, they may or may not lower it enough. Everyone’s different, so give it a try.
However, if you find you need to get your blood pressure down further, don’t worry – there are a lot of other things you can do, such as eating more or less of certain things, being more active, practising relaxation techniques and getting a handle on any stress.
In fact, for lowering blood pressure naturally, it’s generally most effective to take a broad approach, so that everything works together to contribute to getting your body, and your blood pressure, into a healthier balance.
So where do you start? Well, to make it simple, we’ve put together an easy-to-follow guide:
As the title suggests, the guide is laid out into nine clear steps. Each step deals with different things you can do to lower your blood pressure:
- the foods and drinks you need to get more of or avoid
- how you can be more active in your day to day life without having to get into lycra and go to the gym (unless you want to, of course)
- how to handle your stress levels and enjoy a more relaxing life
Each step sets out straightforward aims and action plans so that you know what to do and how to do it. And you can take each step at whatever pace suits you – making simple changes to your diet and daily routine as you go.
Perhaps most importantly, the guide shows you how to incorporate these changes into your life simply and easily – and enjoyably!
Lowering your blood pressure naturally doesn’t have to be difficult. And it’s difficult not to enjoy feeling healthier and happier and more relaxed!
Just click on the pic for more information (and you can also get a free sample to check out).