HealthDay News — Regular swimming improved blood pressure (BP) and vascular function in older adults with early hypertension, study data indicate.

“Swimming exercise elicits hypotensive effects and improvements in vascular function in previously sedentary older adults,” Nantinee Nualim, PhD, of the University of Texas in Austin, and colleagues reported in the April 1 issue of the American Journal of Cardiology.

Swimming is thought to be an ideal exercise for older adults due to the minimal weight-bearing stress and decreased heat load associated with the activity. But little data is available on potential vascular risks.

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To examine the way regular swimming effects arterial BP and vascular function, Nualim and colleagues randomly assigned 43 adults aged older than 50 years, who had prehypertension or stage 1 hypertension and were not taking medication, to 12 weeks of swimming or gentle relaxation exercises in an attention time control group.

Participants assigned to the swimming group experienced a significant decrease in casual systolic BP from 131 mm Hg to 122 mm Hg. Ambulatory and central BP measurements also showed a significant decrease in systolic BP, the researchers found.

Those in the swimming group also experienced a 21% increase (P<0.05) in carotid artery compliance, as well as significant improvements in flow-mediated dilation and cardiovagal baroreflex sensitivity (P<0.05). The control group did not experience significant changes in any measurements.

Body mass, adiposity and plasma concentrations of glucose and cholesterol did not change in either group throughout the intervention period.

Nualnim N et al. Am J Cardiol. 2012;109(7):1005-1010.