The Effect of Exercise and Distraction on Blood Pressure Recovery Following an Anger-Provoking Stressor in Normotensive Young Adults

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Ruminating about a prior anger provoking event is found to elevate blood pressure (BP) and delay BP recovery. Delayed BP recovery may be associated with increased risk of hypertension. Interventions that improve BP recovery may be beneficial for cardiovascular health. The purposes of this study were to evaluate the influence of rumination and anger on BP reactivity and recovery, to compare the effect of an exercise intervention or distraction intervention on BP recovery and to explore if exercise improved BP recovery by distracting participants from stressor-related rumination and anger. Healthy, normotensive participants (n = 79, mean age 22.2 ± 4.0 years) underwent an anger-recall interview stressor task, 3 min of exercise (walking), distraction (reading) or no-intervention (quiet sitting) and a 15 min recovery period. State anger reactivity was associated with Δ diastolic (D) BP reactivity and approached significance with Δ systolic (S) BP reactivity. Trait rumination was associated with greater SBP during recovery. Δ SBP recovery did not differ between the exercise, distraction and no-intervention groups. Although there were no differences in Δ DBP recovery between the exercise and no-intervention groups, distraction improved Δ DBP recovery compared to the exercise intervention but not the no-intervention. The proportion of anger-related thoughts (state rumination) in the exercise group did not differ from the distraction or no-intervention groups. However, a smaller proportion of participants in the distraction intervention reported an anger-related thought during recovery compared to the no-intervention group with 76% of their thoughts relating to the provided distraction. Overall, post-stressor exercise was not found to improve BP recovery while reading was effective at distracting individuals from angry thoughts (state rumination) but had no effect on BP compared to no-intervention.

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