Our risk of high blood pressure (hypertension) increases as we get older, but getting some exercise can make a huge difference. If your blood pressure is already high, exercise can help you control it. Don’t think you’ve got to run a “Iron Man” competition or join a gym. Rather, begin slowly and work more physical activity into your daily routine.
How exercise can lower your blood pressure
How are high blood pressure and exercise connected? Regular physical activity creates a stronger heart. Thus stronger heart can pump more blood with less effort. If your heart can work less to pump, the force on your arteries decreases, lowering your blood pressure.
Becoming more active can lower your systolic blood pressure — the top number in a blood pressure reading — by an average of 4 to 9 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg). That’s as good a result as some blood pressure medications. For some people, getting some exercise is enough to reduce the need for blood pressure medication.
If your blood pressure is at a desirable level — less than 120/80 mm Hg — exercise can help prevent it from rising as you get older. Regular exercise also helps you maintain a healthy weight — another important way to control blood pressure.
But to keep your blood pressure low, you need to keep exercising on a regular basis. It takes about one to three months for regular exercise to have an impact on your blood pressure. The benefits last only as long as you continue to exercise.
How Much Exercise Is Enough?
Aerobic activity can be an effective way to control high blood pressure. But flexibility and strengthening exercises such as lifting weights are also important parts of an overall fitness plan. You don’t need to spend hours in the gym every day to benefit from aerobic activity. By adding moderate physical activities to your daily routine will also help.
Any physical activity that increases your heart and breathing rates is considered aerobic activity, including:
Household chores, such as mowing the lawn, raking leaves, gardening or scrubbing the floor
Active sports, such as basketball or tennis
According to “The Department of Health and Human Services” it is recommended that you get at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity a week, or a combination of moderate and vigorous activity. Aim for at least 30 minutes of aerobic activity most days of the week.
If you can’t set aside that much time at once, remember that shorter bursts of activity count, too. You can break up your workout into three 10-minute sessions of aerobic exercise and get the same benefit as one 30-minute session.
Also, if you sit for several hours a day, try to reduce the amount of time you spend sitting. Research has found that too much sedentary time can contribute to many health conditions. Aim for five to 10 minutes of low-intensity physical activity — such as getting up to get a drink of water or going on a short walk — each hour. Consider setting a reminder in your email calendar or on your smartphone.
Lifting weights is a popular exercise for those looking to increase muscle mass, but it can also help to improve bone density and, when done correctly, strengthen tissue around the joints.
However, what effect does weight lifting have on hypertension?
Because this type of exercise can actually temporarily increase blood pressure (sometimes a sharp spike), it certainly isn’t suitable for those with uncontrolled levels, which would be 180/110 or higher.
Those with a blood pressure of 140/90 or above should also discuss weight training with their doctor beforehand, as it may be necessary to employ certain precautions.
These may include:
Breathing smoothly and consistently when lifting, and not holding your breath
Taking care to use correct form
Opting to use lighter weights and perform more repetitions, as opposed to using heavier weights and performing less repetitions
Allowing your body to sufficiently rest between sets, and switching between leg and upper body exercises
If undertaken correctly and consistently, weight training can have a beneficial effect on blood pressure over time, and reduce the risk of hypertension developing; however, it is important to keep correct practice in mind, particularly if you know your blood pressure is high.
Increase Your Chances of Living Longer
Science shows that physical activity can reduce your risk of dying early from the leading causes of death, like heart disease and some cancers. This is remarkable in two ways:
Only a few lifestyle choices have as large an impact on your health as physical activity. People who are physically active for about 7 hours a week have a 40 percent lower risk of dying early than those who are active for less than 30 minutes a week.
You don’t have to do high amounts of activity or vigorous-intensity activity to reduce your risk of premature death. You can put yourself at lower risk of dying early by doing at least 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity.
With all these remarkable benefits of exercise it makes perfect sense to start. I know it is not easy with the pace of life we run today. And with more of us having jobs that have us sitting most of the day it is more important than ever for us to start.
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