• BREAKING NEWS ABC shows live and on-demand -- Download the WATCH ABC app!

Better for blood pressure: Cardio or weights?

April 25, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
When it comes to lowering your blood pressure, what's better? Cardio exercise or lifting weights?

In the past, cardiologists in general recommended against strength training.

But a new study in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology found that the best way to fight blood pressure is to put your muscle into it.

Researchers studied 1,500 hundred men, 40 and older, for 18 years. All the men had high blood pressure. Those who had higher muscle strength had a 34 percent lower risk of death due to any cause than those with lesser muscle strength.

One theory for this is more muscle and less fat means less production of an enzyme that causes water and salt retention.

"If you have a smaller fat mass as a result of your calories being diverted into muscle maintenance, then you make less of this enzyme and you're less likely to have high blood pressure," said Dr. Lawrence O'Connor of Glendale Memorial Hospital.

Men who did both strength and cardio training had the lowest risk of death from stroke, heart disease and cancer.

So how much should you do? Ideally, brisk walking every day combined with weight training three times a week.

"You don't have to run, do circuit training or high impact things," said David Liston, a personal trainer. "You should start slow and work slowly up until you get to that point, but get out and move."

Experts say if you have time to brush your teeth, you have time to exercise.