Adding to the growing research evidence of the health benefits
of Pilates is a new study showing that hypertensive women who practiced mat Pilates experienced a significant reduction in blood pressure. Since resistance exercises benefit people with high blood pressure, researchers from the Universidade Federal de São Paulo, in Brazil, wanted to evaluate whether Pilates, as a form of resistance exercise, would offer similar reductions in blood pressure.

Investigators enrolled 44 middle-aged hypertensive women who did not participate in any structured exercise and were taking blood pressure-lowering medications under supervision from their respective doctors. The women were divided into two groups: a control group that did not add any new exercise training during the study period; and a training group that attended a 60-minute mat Pilates class twice a week for 16 weeks. All subjects underwent blood pressure assessments, among other physical tests, at the beginning of the study and after 16 weeks.

Data analysis showed that women in the training group experienced a significant reduction in blood pressure during all measurements over a 24-hour period (awake and sleeping). Control group members did not demonstrate any comparable changes in blood pressure.

Study limitations included the fact that only middle-aged women who wanted to take the training participated. But the authors noted that, in other research, both men and women have responded equally in exercise interventions designed to lower blood pressure.

The authors consequently recommended “mat Pilates training on a regular basis as a non-drug treatment for the prevention, treatment and control of hypertension, provided that the same will be applied in accordance with the criteria and appropriate care and by a trained and qualified professional for [Pilates mat exercises] and [for people with high blood pressure].”

The research was published in International Journal of Cardiology (2015; 179, 262-68).