Have hypertension? Exercise can be a valuable part of your high blood pressure treatment plan. Get started!
Many people need a combination of lifestyle changes and medicine to control blood pressure. Regular aerobic exercise can be a key part of a treatment plan for hypertension. While power or weightlifting can be risky for people with high blood pressure, aerobic exercise, where the body is put into motion, can lower blood pressure by 10 points, along with offering a host of other health benefits.
Why aerobic exercise for lower blood pressure?
Aerobic exercise makes your heart stronger and work more efficiently. An efficient heart doesn’t have to pump as hard to circulate blood, resulting in lower blood pressure. Regular exercise also makes the blood vessels more flexible, so they can accommodate an increase in blood flow. Exercise also helps you better manage stress and control weight, both of which result in lower blood pressure.
Here are some other things to keep in mind about exercise and blood pressure:
- Being active decreases both systolic and diastolic blood pressure by about 10 points each, on average.
- Once you start exercising, you can expect a drop in blood pressure within the first 3 to 4 weeks. But you have to stick with your fitness program long-term to keep your blood pressure lower.
- People with high blood pressure who exercise regularly have lower death rates than those who aren’t fit.
Exercise works best when combined with other healthy habits to lower blood pressure, such as eating a nutritious diet and losing weight. Follow your high blood pressure care plan exactly as your doctor directs. And before you increase your activity, be sure to ask your doctor if it’s OK. Exercise may not be safe for some people with very high blood pressure or other medical problems.
Get started with exercise
Aim for 150 minutes of aerobic exercise each week. That number seems high, but try breaking it up into smaller sessions. For example, take three, 10-minute walks each day and you’ll meet your goal.
Try these tips to get started with exercise:
- Choose an activity you enjoy. Biking, walking, swimming or playing tennis can be fun exercise options. Choose any activity you enjoy and you’ll be more likely to stick with it. Remember exercise doesn’t have to happen in a gym for it to count.
- Plan exercise into your day. Schedule your workout session in your calendar like you would any other meeting or appointment. Wake up earlier to do an exercise DVD, walk during your lunch hour or stop at the gym on the way home from work.
- Recruit others. Being active may be more enjoyable if you have a buddy. What’s more, when you know someone is waiting you may be less likely to skip your workout. Ask your coworkers to walk with you at lunch or plan a weekend hike with your family.
Other ways to bring blood pressure down
- Eat a healthy diet. Ask your doctor about the DASH diet. Studies show a diet that limits saturated fat and cholesterol, but emphasizes potassium-rich foods like fruits, whole grains, vegetables and low-fat dairy foods can lower high blood pressure.
- Watch your salt intake. Limiting the amount of sodium (salt) also lowers blood pressure in many people. The biggest blood pressure-lowering benefits are for those who limited sodium to less than 1,500 milligrams per day.
- Reach and keep a healthy weight. Overweight people are more likely to develop high blood pressure.
- Don’t smoke. If you do, get help to quit from your doctor.
Limit alcohol. If you choose to drink, women should drink no more than one alcoholic beverage per day, and men should drink no more than two.
• American Heart Association. Physical activity and blood pressure. Accessed: 06/05/2012
• National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. Your guide to lowering blood pressure. Accessed: 06/05/2012
• United States Department of Agriculture. Report of the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee on the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010. Accessed: 06/05/2012
• American College of Sports Medicine. Exercise your way to lower blood pressure. Accessed: 06/05/2012