As you get older, your risk for high blood pressure increases. If you struggle with weight, stress and/or other related health conditions, you are especially at risk for higher blood pressure. However, exercise can be more of a helpful weapon than you might think.
How Exercise Helps Blood Pressure
While prevention is key to problems with blood pressure, medication isn’t the only tool for bringing it down. It all comes down to one simple fact. When you exercise, you strengthen your heart. A stronger heart can pump more blood with less effort. This means that your arteries won’t get as much force or strain, and that’s what lowers your blood pressure.
How much lower are we talking? Regular activity can lower your systolic blood pressure (top number) by an average of 4-9 mm HG. That is equal to some medications! It just goes to show you that exercise isn’t only good for weight-loss.
Reaping the Benefits
However, for your blood pressure to benefit, you have to exercise on a regular basis. You don’t need to hit the gym every day, but you should be getting at least 150 minutes of moderate activity or 75 minutes of vigorous activity each week. Your fitness plan should be well-rounded and incorporate both aerobic and strength-training activities. Your goal is to increase your heart and breathing rates, build flexibility and strength, and gain endurance.
Examples of Aerobic Activities:
- Hiking and nature walks
- Active sports like tennis or basketball
- Walking or jogging
- Biking or cycling
- Dancing or step aerobics
- Gardening and movement-driven housework
Examples of Strength-training Activities:
- Lifting weights
- Resistance bands
- Using your body weight
- Machines at the gym
Remember, Safety Comes First
It is always best to speak with your healthcare provider before starting any new fitness plan. This is especially true if you face challenges to your health including a history of smoking, old age, chronic pain, chronic diseases, etc. If you take any medication regularly, you should also ask your provider if exercise will affect its performance or cause side effects.
When you do exercise, pay attention to your body. If you experience dizziness, shortness of breath, pain or an irregular heartbeat, stop exercising immediately and seek medical care.
Finally, keep track of your progress. If you stick to a regular schedule, check your blood pressure often to look for any positive changes. You can do this with a personal at-home monitor or even some grocery stores. Record these numbers and show them to your healthcare provider.