8-Minutes of Awful Lowers Blood Pressure!

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One of the main reasons Funtensity exists is to make challenging fitness more appealing to more people.

Unfortunately, it often seems like researchers, writers, and most of the rest of the world sets out to make exercise as repulsive as possible.

The latest offering from the “Bureau of Terrible Fitness Ideas” (an organization I totally just made up yet seems real) has been making headlines like this:

              “Doing Wall Sit Exercises Can Help Lower Your Blood Pressure”

Since only the most shocking presentation of data is allowed these days, this is the takeaway from a study that looked at isometric exercises (wall sits), aerobic training, resistance training, combined training (both resistance and aerobic), and high-intensity interval training and found that (gasp) all of them reduce blood pressure, because…duh, we already know that ALL types of exercise lower blood pressure. The reduction in blood pressure from wall sits was slightly higher than from the other forms of exercise. So that’s the “big news.”

The catch? (And there’s always a catch.)

Here’s how you must do the wall sits (and I am not making this up – I wouldn’t be this evil and torturous) to get the benefits described in the study:

The study says (without humor) that eight minutes of isometric exercise, three times a week, can lead to a meaningful reduction in blood pressure.

Specifically, this means holding a wall sit for two minutes (!) and resting for two minutes. Repeat for a total of four wall sits (Yeah, right) with breaks in between. A single session, including rest, will take only 14 minutes.

First, holding a wall sit for 30 seconds is reasonably difficult for fit people. A minute is something you work up to over weeks and weeks of dedicated practice and suffering.  (When I wrestled in high school, the worst part of practice – and there were lots of candidates – was the one-minute wall sit.) Two minutes? You’d better be super-fit.  Two minutes, four times? You’d better be Superman.

Second, leave it to us humans, the species that already sits still too much, to turn even intense, mind-shatteringly difficult exercise into motionlessness.  We do not get better at moving by not moving.  You will not get better at life by not moving for longer and longer periods of time. 

Third, if you are a new fitness professional thinking of trying this with clients (a seasoned pro would not consider using these protocols with anyone), please find someone you trust to gently slap some sense into you.   

Do NOT try this at home. At a gym. At a studio. In a park. On Earth.  Maybe try it on Mars or the Moon where the gravity is low enough that a two-minute wall sit might be possible for normal humans.

Bad ideas have staying power (5-minute plank challenges and cleanses every new year are notable examples) and it is saddening and maddening to think of the poor people out there who might read this and in a good faith effort at improving their fitness, try these protocols, fail (because of course you will), and then internalize that failure. 

The big takeaway (should be) from the study is that all forms of exercise reduce blood pressure. In this case, someone stupidly turned up the length of the wall sits high enough to engineer the outcome and make them the “leader” in terms of blood pressure reduction.

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