Dec. 19 (UPI) -- Working out may have the same effect as taking blood pressure medication says one new study.
The findings, published Tuesday in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, show exercise has a similar effect.
To compare which works best, British researchers pulled together data from 194 clinical trials where participants blood pressure medication and 197 trials where people exercised in regimens. The research focused on lowering systolic blood pressure, the top number on the reading that measures the amount of pressure in the arteries per heartbeat.
Initially, the research showed that drugs were more effective than exercise in lowering blood pressure. But when the scientists narrowed their scope to only include participants with high blood pressure, exercise showed the same effectiveness as the drugs.
"We hope that our findings will inform evidence-based discussions between clinicians and their patients, especially for individuals who are newly indicated for antihypertensive drug therapy," said Huseyin Naci, assistant professor in London School of Economics Department of Health Policy and study author, in a news release.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that about 75 million people have high blood pressure, which increases the risk of heart disease and stroke.
But many people in the United States don't get enough exercise -- the National Institutes of Health estimates that about 28 percent of Americans are physically inactive.
While these findings are encouraging, the researchers stress the need for people with high blood pressure to continue taking their medication.
"We don't think, on the basis of our study, that patients should stop taking their antihypertensive medications," Naci said.
Also, people with high blood pressure need to know whether their bodies can handle the stress of regular exercise.
"It's one thing to recommend that physicians start prescribing exercise to their patients, but we also need to be cognizant of the resource implications and ensure that the patients that have been referred to exercise interventions can adhere to them and so really derive benefit."