Be Well: Exercise & High Blood Pressure

You may have heard your doctor or other medical professionals say that regular exercise helps lower blood pressure or can help reduce the risk of developing high blood pressure. The reason for this is simple: Regular exercise makes your heart stronger, which means it can pump blood with less effort. If the heart uses less effort to pump the blood, it decreases the force on the arteries, which lowers blood pressure.

According to the Mayo Clinic, getting more physical activity can lower your systolic blood pressure (the top number in a blood-pressure reading) just as well as some blood-pressure medications. They also state that regular exercise can help to prevent blood pressure from rising as you get older.  It is important to note that in order to keep the blood pressure low, you need to exercise on a regular basis. It takes a few months for exercise to have an impact on the blood pressure, and the benefits will only last as long as you continue to exercise.

Aerobic activity and weight-training are both important parts of a regular exercise routine, and both types can help to effectively control blood pressure. Aerobic activity increases your heart rate and breathing. These are activities like running, swimming or biking, but they can also include chores like raking leaves or mopping floors.

The Department of Health & Human Services recommends getting 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous activity per week. Keep in mind that short sessions are also effective. You could do four 15-minute sessions of aerobic activity and get the same benefits as a 60-minute session.

The Department of Health & Human Services recommends strength-training of all the major muscle groups at least twice a week. If you already have high blood pressure, there are some key things to remember. Lifting weights can temporarily increase blood pressure during the actual exercise. It is important to discuss with your doctor adding strength-training exercises to your routine, particularly if you have high blood pressure. Be sure to use proper form at all times to reduce injury risk. It’s also important to keep breathing during the exercise. Holding your breath during the exercise can cause a spike in blood pressure. If you already have high blood pressure, this can be dangerous. Additionally, it is a good idea to use lighter weights and do more repetitions. Bigger weights cause a greater strain on the body, which can cause a greater increase in blood pressure.

If you take the time to learn these important tips and also listen to your body, strength-training combined with aerobic activity can be key to lowering and maintaining your blood pressure. Be sure to incorporate warm-up and cool-down sessions prior to and after exercising. Monitor your blood pressure so you will know if you are making progress, either by using a home monitor or getting your blood pressure checked each time you see your doctor.

Be Well Tips

  Incorporate aerobic activity and strength-training into your fitness routine.

  Learn and use proper form at all times.

  Keep breathing through the exercises.

  Use lighter weights, and do more reps.

  Monitor your blood pressure regularly.

  Speak to your doctor before beginning any exercise program.