April 1 (UPI) -- Pilates may significantly improve blood pressure in young, obese women, a new study has found.
Women who engage in 90 minutes of mat pilates weekly saw blood pressure declines of up to six points, and experienced a drop in their percentage of body fat, according to study results published Wednesday in American Journal of Hypertension.
Mat Pilates is a popular fitness regiment, with about 9 million participants in 2018, that emphasizes core strength, flexibility, body posture and controlled breathing.
"Our findings provide evidence that Mat Pilates benefit cardiovascular health by decreasing blood pressure, arterial stiffness, and body fatness in young obese women with elevated blood pressure," the authors said in a press release.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 40 percent of American adults are considered obese. The prevalence of severe obesity is more than 9 percent among women, based on agency estimates.
Meanwhile, the prevalence of obesity in young adults has become a major public health issue. Though it is well-documented that exercise is a key factor in preventing and managing cardiovascular health problems, obese women tend not to stick with traditional workout routines, research has shown.
For the current study, researchers looked at young obese women between age 19 and 29 who had elevated blood pressure -- but were otherwise healthy non-smokers -- and a body mass index between 30 and 40 kilograms per square meter. Body mass index is a commonly used measure for obesity that measures a person's weight against their height, in meters.
All of the study participants reported exercising less than 90 minutes per week prior to the beginning of the project.
In all, 14 of the 28 study participants through 12 weeks of mat Pilates. There were three one-hour training sessions per week, which were divided into the following stages: initial warm up and stretch for 10 minutes; general mat Pilates exercises for 40 minutes; and a cool down period of 10 minutes. Training increased over the 12 weeks, with the repetition of each exercise steadily rising, with a certified mat Pilates instructor supervising all sessions.
Compared to those who did participate, people who performed Mat Pilates experienced reductions in brachial systolic blood pressure, by five points, and aortic systolic blood pressure, by six points. Their body fat percentages also dropped by an average of 2 percent over the 12-week period.
"Because adherence to traditional exercise, both aerobic and resistance, is low in obese individuals, Mat Pilates Training might prove an effective exercise alternative for the prevention of hypertension and cardiovascular events in young obese adults," the authors wrote.