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Keywords:

  • heart rate;
  • dynamics;
  • blood pressure;
  • isometric exercise;
  • autonomic nervous system

Hypertension is characterized by elevated blood pressure (BP) and autonomic dysfunction, both thought to be improved with exercise training. Isometric handgrip (IHG) training may represent a beneficial, time-effective exercise therapy. We investigated the effects of IHG training on BP and traditional and nonlinear measures of heart rate variability (HRV). Pre- and post-measurements of BP and HRV were determined in 23 medicated hypertensive participants (mean ± SEM, 66 ± 2 years) following either 8 weeks of IHG training (n = 13) or control (n = 10). IHG exercise consisted of four unilateral 2-min isometric contractions at 30% of maximal voluntary contraction, each separated by 4 min of rest. IHG training was performed 3 days/week for 8 weeks. IHG training decreased systolic BP (125 ± 3 mmHg to 120 ± 2 mmHg, P < 0.05) and mean BP (90 ± 2 mmHg to 87 ± 2 mmHg, P < 0.05), while sample entropy was increased (1.07 ± 0.1 to 1.35 ± 0.1, P < 0.05) and the fractal scaling distance score was decreased (0.34 ± 0.1 to 0.19 ± 0.1, P < 0.05). No significant changes were observed in traditional spectral or time-domain measures of HRV or control participants. IHG training improves nonlinear HRV, but not traditional HRV, while reducing systolic and mean BP. These results may highlight the benefits of IHG training for patients with primary hypertension.