Aerobic exercise leading to strong cardiorespiratory fitness can delay a man’s onset of age-related high blood pressure, researchers report in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology (2014;64(12):1245-1253).

The new findings are based on heart health data from nearly 14,000 men studied between 1970 and 2006. Researchers tracked each man’s blood pressure and kept tabs on their fitness using a strenuous treadmill exercise test.

The investigators found that systolic blood pressure increases to pre-high blood pressure levels beginning around age 46 for a man with low fitness. But men with high fitness don’t reach those same warning levels of systolic blood pressure until around age 54. Fitness also benefited diastolic blood pressure: A man with low fitness will reach warning levels of diastolic blood pressure at about the age of 42, while men who are very fit won’t reach those levels of diastolic blood pressure until a very advanced age, around 90.

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“A higher level of fitness can significantly delay this natural increase of blood pressure with age,” study coauthor Xuemei Sui, MD, MPH, PhD, from the University of South Carolina’s Arnold School of Public Health in Columbia, told HealthDay.