In February 2020 researchers from India published the results of their study to assess the effectiveness of yoga, Zumba dance, and aerobic exercises in controlling blood pressure levels in Indian adults without the use of hypertensive drugs. The researchers stated that normal blood pressure levels for adults is defined as a systolic pressure below 120 mmHg and a diastolic pressure below 80 mmHg, although it is normal for blood pressure levels to change during sleep, physical activity, excitement or nervousness. It is known that blood pressure levels normally increase with age and body weight, and that infants frequently have very low blood pressure levels which is considered normal. Older teens have a similar range of blood pressure levels to adults and in fact an increasing number of adolescents are now being seen with high blood pressure levels. Overall, it has been estimated that high blood pressure, also known as hypertension, affects approximately 1 billion worldwide and in South Asia it is the third most important risk factor for attributable burden of disease. It has been estimated that 23% of Indian men and 24% of Indian women will have hypertension by 2025. However, a recent study showed that only about 26% of treated individuals in India have their blood pressure under control. Overall, hypertension accounts for 10% of deaths in India. Many studies have found that the incidence of hypertension is higher in the urban population when compared to the rural population.
This study was therefore undertaken to assess whether yoga, Zumba and aerobic exercises in the long term had any effect on slowing down the effect aging, stress and lifestyle have on blood pressure levels. A total of 45 individuals, aged between 30-60 years, with hypertension were included in the study which lasted for three months. To participate in the study the individuals had to be non-alcoholics, non-smokers, not taking any medications for hypertension, undertaking a regular diet with similar dietary habits and must do regular exercise. The selected individuals were divided into three groups, with 15 individuals undertaking aerobic exercises, 15 Zumba and 15 yoga. Each individual was examined prior to the study starting and had their blood pressure assessed twice, first during their visit to the respective centre prior to starting their exercise and the second time 3 months later.
Individuals with hypertension are encouraged to undertake aerobic exercise on a regular basis, eg walking, jogging, running, cycling, swimming. Recent studies have shown that aerobic exercise results a significant reduction in blood pressure levels. In individuals with no history of hyptertension, regular exercise may reduce the systolic blood pressure by 3-5 mmHg and diastolic blood pressure by 2-3 mmHg, with the reduction being higher in individuals with hypertension. Aerobic exercise not only improves fitness but also improves overall quality of life and decreases all-cause mortality.
In this study 15 hypertensive individuals attended an aerobics gym centre and undertook aerobic exercises on a regular basis for 45 mins every day. Results showed that after undertaking aerobic exercises for a 3-month period the average reduction in systolic blood pressure was 3.0 mmHg and for diastolic pressure 2.87 mmHg.
Zumba is a Latin inspired dance exercise program that started in 2001 and it has been estimated that 15 million individuals take weekly Zumba classes in over 200,000 locations across 180 countries. The motto of Zumba dance is “Ditch the workout, Join the party” and involves dance and aerobic movements. It incorporates hip-hop, soca, samba, salsa, merengue, and mambo, and also includes squats and lunges. The exercises include music with fast and slow rhythms, as well as resistance training. The aim of Zumba is for participants to improve strength, balance, coordination, and cardiovascular endurance.
In this study 15 hypertensive individuals attended a Zumba training center. Results showed that after undertaking Zumba dance exercises for a 3-month period the average reduction in systolic blood pressure was 4.53 mmHg and for diastolic pressure 3.80 mmHg.
Yoga has been practiced over thousands of years. All over the world researchers have studied yoga and claims have been made that it increases longevity, as well as having therapeutic and rehabilitative effects. Several researchers have also observed that yoga can lower systolic pressure levels and it is thought that this may be due to yoga modifying anxiety levels. Yoga undertaken for a long duration can affect the hypothalamus (located at the base of the brain, which although very small, plays a crucial role in many important functions, including the release of hormones, regulating body temperature, etc). The hypothalamus can bring about a decrease in the systolic and diastolic blood pressure levels through its influence on the vasomotor centre.
In this study, 15 hypertensive individuals performed “Yoga”, ie “Asanas” (postural exercises), “Pranayamas” (breathing techniques), and “Savasana” (meditation), under the proper guidance of an instructor. Results showed that after undertaking yoga exercises for a 3-month period the average reduction in systolic blood pressure was 9.73 mmHg and for diastolic pressure 14.4 mmHg. In fact yoga appeared to be more effective than drug therapy in controlling systolic blood pressure but not diastolic blood pressure.
The researchers concluded that hypertension can be controlled without drug intervention with exercises like aerobics, Zumba dance and yoga. Comparing the three activities, the reduction in blood pressure levels was greatest amongst individuals who practiced yoga, followed by Zumba dance and finally aerobics. They are a good way to manage stress and anxiety and should become an important strategy in preventing hypertension and its associated diseases as they help individuals to conquer hypertension at an early stage.
Packyanathan JS, Preetha S. Comparison of the effect of Yoga, Zumba and Aerobics in controlling blood pressure in the Indian population. J Family Med Prim Care. 2020 Feb; 9(2): 547–551.