Close to 75 million Americans are affected by hypertension, blood pressure consistently about 140/90 mmHg.
Unfortunately, not enough are taking the steps necessary to lower their blood pressure. And while some people are, medications and diet just aren’t enough to significantly make a difference. It’s important exercise is included in efforts to lower your blood pressure.
Study after study has shown exercise helps to lower blood pressure. But despite the evidence supporting exercise as an effective approach to lowering blood pressure, many questions remain about blood pressure and exercise.
What is the Best Kind of Exercise to Lower Blood Pressure?
Of course you have options when it comes to exercising and everyone enjoys different types of exercise. But the best kind of exercise for your blood pressure is cardiovascular or aerobic exercise. Aerobic exercise strengthens your heart. You can choose to walk, jog, jump rope, cycle, cross-country ski, row, swim and many other activities that elevate your heart rate and keep it working throughout your exercise.
While cardiovascular exercise is the most important type of exercise for your heart, don’t forget strength training and stretching. Strength training helps you build muscle so you are able to burn more calories while it also strengthens the bones and joints. Stretching helps increase your flexibility so it’s easier to move while it also helps prevent injuries.
How Hard and How Long Do I Need to Exercise?
The American Heart Association recommends individuals in need of lowering their blood pressure, aim to get 40 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity three to four times a week.
It’s important to remember intense exercise is not required to lower your blood pressure. Studies have shown lower intensity exercise is better for older, less fit individuals while a moderate intensity is more effective for those in better shape.
Moderate exercise is easier to maintain and lowers your risk for injury especially for those who are not used to exercising regularly.
AHA Recommendations for Exercise
For overall health benefits to the heart, lungs and circulation, perform any moderate- to vigorous-intensity aerobic activity using the following guidelines:
- For most healthy people, get the equivalent of at least 150 minutes (2 hours and 30 minutes) per week of moderate-intensity physical activity, such as brisk walking.
- If you need to lower your blood pressure or cholesterol, aim for 40 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity 3 to 4 times per week.
- You can incorporate your weekly physical activity with 30 minutes a day on at least 5 days a week.
- Physical activity should be performed in episodes of at least 10 minutes, and preferably, it should be spread throughout the week.
- Include flexibility and stretching exercises.
- Include muscle strengthening activity at least 2 days each week.
How Often Do I Need to Exercise?
If you’re looking to lower your blood pressure, it’s important you’re exercising at a moderate to vigorous intensity for a minimum of three days a week for at least 40 minutes.
If you’re looking to maintain a healthy blood pressure and prevent high blood pressure, be sure you’re exercising at least 150 minutes per week at a moderate intensity level.
Can Exercise Replace Medications?
While exercise will absolutely help you lower your blood pressure, it’s important to follow your doctor’s recommendations when it comes to your blood pressure medications. For complete control over high blood pressure, many individuals need to combine a healthy amount of exercise with taking medications.
In some cases, regular exercise can help reduce the amount of medication you need. In any event, be sure to consult with your doctor before taking yourself off your blood pressure medications.
Is it Safe to Exercise with High Blood Pressure?
While some individuals may need to follow specific guidelines based on their health, exercise is one of the best things you can do to lower your blood pressure. Of course, if you’re concerned about exercising and your specific health, be sure to discuss your blood pressure and exercise program with your doctor.
As you increase the amount of exercise you’re getting and how often you’re exercising, you’ll notice how your body feels better.
If you do feel chest pain, weakness, dizziness, lightheadedness, or pressure in your neck, arms, jaw or shoulders, be sure to take a break. If you feel extreme side effects, call your doctor immediately or seek emergency treatment.
Can Exercise Prevent High Blood Pressure?
Regular exercise is regularly recommended to reduce high blood pressure and can absolutely help prevent unhealthy blood pressure levels. Higher physical activity levels have shown to help prevent high blood pressure for individuals with healthy blood pressure levels.
Blood Pressure and Exercise Tips
Make It Fun
A lot of people dread exercise, but you don’t have to if you find something you enjoy. If you hate the gym, don’t force it. Instead find something you enjoy that takes 30 to 60 minutes a day. Dancing, yoga, gardening, hiking, playing with your kids or grand kids all count. Since exercise should be a habit, pick exercise you’ll have fun participating in.
Work With A Trainer
Working with someone with extensive experience can help you get and feel more comfortable when it comes to exercise. Explain your goals to your trainer and they can help you get into the right kind of exercise for your while providing motivation for you to continue exercising.
Cardiovascular exercise is clearly the recommended type of exercise, but that doesn’t mean you should avoid strength training altogether. Building muscle helps to balance your exercise routine and slows muscle loss that comes with aging. Building muscle strengthens your connective tissues, increases bone density, reduces your risk for injuries and helps to ease arthritis pain.
“Strength training is very important, not just for your muscles but for your bones,” said certified fitness trainer Debbie Siebers. “It’s preventative for osteoporosis and other problems.”
Swimming might be the gentlest ways to get in your aerobic exercise. Swimming is a low-impact form of exercise and doesn’t often lead to injuries like other forms of exercise.
While experts recommend 40 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise three to four times a day, some individuals may not be ready for that much exercise. If you haven’t been used to regular exercise, you may want to work your way up to that much exercise and pace yourself while you are exercising.
Make It Convenient
Making exercise part of your schedule isn’t always easy. But the more convenient you make it, the better off you’ll be. Find a time that is convenient and it will be easier to continue.
Vary Your Exercise
Sometimes doing the same thing every time you exercise can get monotonous and boring. If you’re bored with you’re exercise routine, try varying the exercise you’re performing. Variety can make it easier and help you look forward to your workouts.
Warm Up and Cool Down
For individuals with high blood pressure, it’s important to take time to warm up before your exercise and time to cool down following your workout. By warming up and cooling down, you let your heart rate rise and return to normal gradually. Something as simple as walking for 10 minutes is enough to help your heart get ready for your exercise.