Lap it up.

In the “American Journal of Cardiology” online, researchers from the University of Texas (UT) at Austin report on a small study of sedentary older adults with pre- or stage 1 hypertension that suggests swimming may be a safe and easy way to lower blood pressure.

They recruited 43 sedentary people, age 50 or over, who had mildly elevated blood pressure and were not taking medications to lower it.

Half completed a 12-week swimming program while the other half completed a 12-week program of gentle relaxation exercises.

Vascular function and blood pressure, sugar, and cholesterol were tested and body measurements taken before and after the programs.

Body weight, fat percentage, blood sugar, and cholesterol levels did not change in either group.

Significant differences were noted in blood pressure: average systolic blood pressure fell from 131 to 122 mm Hg (120 is considered ideal) and significant improvements in vascular function were found in the swimming group but no changes were found in the relaxation exercise group.

Swimming puts little stress on joints and is unlikely to lead to overheating, two features that make it an ideal way for sedentary folks to get active with a minimum of discomfort.