Exercise and Your Blood Pressure

Another benefit of exercise is lower blood pressure.

Getty Images

Regular exercise can help you control or prevent hypertension. Exercise is beneficial to many health conditions, and high blood pressure is one condition that improves with exercise. The National Institutes of Health, the Centers for Disease Control, and the American Heart Association have promoted the benefits of exercise for individuals with high blood pressure. A meta-analysis, or a large study of 54 smaller clinical trials of aerobic exercise, found that systolic blood pressure, the top number, is reduced an average of 3.84 mmHg in individuals who exercise regularly.

Diastolic blood pressure across these studies was reduced an average 2.58 mmHg. A meta-analysis of the effects of resistance training showed reductions of 3.2 mmHg systolic blood pressure, and 3.5 mmHg for diastolic blood pressure.

What Type of Exercise Is Best?

Although both resistance activity and aerobic activity have shown benefits, there is an apparent link between resistance training and reduced compliance of the arteries. Compliance in the arteries means that the arteries expand when there is increased blood flow. If the arteries don’t readily expand in areas of high blood flow, it can cause blood pressure to increase. It appears that performing aerobic exercises with strength training negates this effect, and the overall effect of performing both resistance and aerobic exercise is a healthy blood pressure reduction.

Find An Exercise Activity You Enjoy!

You are more likely to exercise if you find something you enjoy.

For some people, time alone while walking or running can be a rare moment for reflection. Others may enjoy bicycling or rowing. These activities can be enjoyed alone or you can enjoy sharing your exercise time with a friend or neighbor. Team sports are good physical exercise, and like other forms of activity, they usually relieve stress.

Fitness classes can help you lower your blood pressure and provide a wonderful social outlet.

Take It Easy!

When you begin a new exercise program, particularly if you haven’t been active, gradually increase your activity level. Listen to your body, as unusual aches and pains associated with exercise may indicate something is going on. Most people benefit from physical activity, but if you have a chronic illness, including high blood pressure or heart disease, you may want to check with your doctor before you increase your activity dramatically.

What About A Warm Up?

Everyone should incorporate a warm-up period and a cool-down period into their exercise routine.  A warm up allows you to gradually increase your heart rate from rest. Try to warm up at least ten minutes when you begin to exercise. A warm up will also help you avoid injury to your muscles. It’s also important to cool down, so your blood pressure doesn’t drop too quickly when you stop your exercise. Stretching at the beginning and end of your exercise will help you avoid sore muscles and will increase your flexibility.

What Is My Target Heart Rate?

When you are exercising, you should monitor your heart rate by measuring your pulse during exercise.

Your resting heart rate means your average heart rate when you are resting, and it is usually between 60 and 100 beats per minute. You can determine your resting heart rate by checking your pulse when you get up in the morning.

Athletes may have a lower heart rate. Some blood pressure medications can keep your heart rate low. If you are taking a medication for blood pressure, ask your doctor what your maximum heart rate should be.

To check your pulse, use the tip of your first two fingers, and press lightly on the blood vessels on the inside of your wrist near your thumb. Count the number of beats in ten seconds – you will have to look at a clock – and multiply this number by 6 to find out how many times your heart is beating each minute.

To determine your maximum heart rate, subtract your age from 220. Your target heart rate should be somewhere between 50% and 85% of your maximum heart rate. When you are exercising moderately, your heart rate will usually be between 50 and 69% of your maximum heart rate. With high intensity exercise, your heart rate can range from 70% to 90% of your maximum heart rate.

Checking Your Workout Intensity

When you are exercising, you should try to reach a moderate intensity to achieve maximum health benefits from your workout. If you are able to carry on a conversation when you are exercising, you are probably not working hard enough. You should be able to speak in short sentences while you are exercising, but if you are having a lengthy conversation, you probably aren’t working hard enough. If you have to stop to catch your breath while you are exercising, your exercise intensity may be too high. When you are in doubt, don’t forget to check your heart rate.

Continue Reading