When it comes to exercising later in life, planking is probably not an exercise that springs readily to mind.
But it might be time for me – and others my age – to reconsider. According to a new study, planking may be an excellent way to prevent high blood pressure.
Better, in fact, than going a run, walk or a bike ride. Walking, running and riding are aerobic exercises, involving the absorption and transport of oxygen.
Planking, on the other hand, is an isometric exercise – or muscle strength training. It involves remaining static in a specific pose which causes muscle contraction.
Given natural muscle mass loss is common in over-50s, planking is an easy-to-do-anywhere exercise worth considering. Now that it has been linked to lowering blood pressure, it might be time to seriously ‘talk the plank’.
Who should we be thanking for this advice about planking?
The discovery of planking as an effective blood pressure lowering mechanism comes from Canterbury Christ Church University in Kent, UK. Researchers at CCCU ran 200 trials analysing a range of exercises impacted blood pressure.
They found, somewhat surprisingly, that isometric exercises are more effective than aerobic ones at lowering blood pressure.
Study co-author Dr Jamie O’Driscoll says the study highlights the need to review exercise guidelines for controlling blood pressure.
“Overall, isometric exercise training is the most effective mode in reducing both systolic and diastolic blood pressure,” says Dr O’Driscoll.
“These findings … support the development of new exercise guideline recommendations for the prevention and treatment of arterial hypertension.”
Previously published research recommends aerobic or ‘cardio’ exercise to help manage blood pressure. However, this is largely based on data that excludes newer forms of exercise, such as isometric exercises, meaning some of these recommendations may be outdated.
The importance of doing it properly
But, “when done correctly, it can be a useful exercise to help strengthen our core muscles”, she says.
And, as we now know, lower our blood pressure.
Celebrity trainer Monique Eastwood says planking “presents a different challenge depending on your body type.” Some people will have very flexible joints while others, especially men, more upper body strength.
So, if you do take up planking, it’s best to seek out an exercise physiologist first.
Have you ever tried planking? Do you do other muscle-strengthening exercises? Let us know via the comments section below.
Health disclaimer: This article contains general information about health issues and is not advice. For health advice, consult your medical practitioner.