Though your risk of high blood pressure increases with age, managing it with exercise can make a world of difference. This doesn’t mean you need to become a marathon runner or even join a gym. Consistency is key; it’s wise to start slow by adding more physical activity into your daily routine.
Regular physical activity strengthens the heart by helping it pump more blood throughout the body with less effort. According to the Mayo Clinic, becoming more active can lower your systolic blood pressure an average of 4 to 9 mm Hg. So, for some people, incorporating light to moderate exercise can be enough to reduce the need for medication.
It takes one to three months for regular exercise to impact your blood pressure, and the benefits last as long as you continue to do so. In today’s blog, we’ll be sharing how you can manage your blood pressure through daily exercise as well as some activities to help you get you started.
How much exercise do I need?
Engaging in aerobic activity is a great way to control high blood pressure. However, this doesn’t require you to spend hours in a gym every day. Any exercise that increases your heart and breathing rate is considered aerobic.
Aerobic activity ranges from household chores like sweeping, gardening or mowing the lawn to heart-healthy exercises like jogging, cycling and swimming. It can also be as simple as taking a walk around your neighborhood or dancing in the living room with your spouse. It doesn’t have to be grueling! In fact, many find it’s easier to implement exercise when it’s an activity you look forward to or have an accountability partner to share the experience with.
What kind of exercise should I choose?
Though aerobic activity is effective for controlling blood pressure, it’s also important to incorporate flexibility and strength training in your overall fitness plan. The National Academy of Sports Medicine recommends engaging in flexibility training before and after your workout. Not only does it improve your movement and athletic performance, but it can also relax your body and mind.
Flexibility exercises like yoga, tai chi and stretching can loosen up your muscles prior to a workout and be used afterward to prevent injury and soreness. Exercises such as weightlifting and rowing can also attribute to a well-rounded program. These activities can help strengthen your bones, connective tissues and muscle mass – making it easier for your body to burn calories and maintain a healthy weight.
What if my health isn’t the best?
If you have really high blood pressure, it’s always best to consult with your doctor first before adding weight training to your fitness routine. If you’re taking any medication, ask if exercise will alter the strength of the medication, change its side effects or affect the way your body reacts to physical activity as a whole.
You may also want to check with your doctor before jumping into an exercise program if you:
- Are a man older than age 45
- Are a woman older than age 55
- Smoke or have quit in the past six months
- Are overweight or obese
- Have a chronic health condition such as diabetes, cardiovascular or lung disease
- Have high cholesterol levels
- Have had a heart attack or other coronary event
- Have a family history of heart-related health problems
- Feel pain or discomfort in your chest, jaw, neck or arms during activity
- Become dizzy with physical exertion
Incorporating aerobic, flexibility and strength training exercises together into your day-to-day may seem like a lot at first. But, it’s important to remember that you don’t have to set aside all that time at once. For example, you can breakdown your workout into three 10-minute sessions and enjoy the same benefits you would in a single 30-minute session.
To reduce the risk of injury, we recommend starting slowly. Always warm up before you work out and take the time to cool down afterward. As you build strength, endurance and flexibility, you can adjust the intensity of your workout. If you experience any signs like dizziness, shortness of breath, tightness in the chest or an irregular heartbeat, stop exercising and seek medical attention.
How Should I Monitor My Blood Pressure?
The best way to detect any changes in your blood pressure is by having it checked during each doctor’s visit or by using a blood pressure monitor at home. If you already have high blood pressure, home monitoring can let you know if your fitness routine is helping to lower your blood pressure.
Home monitoring can reduce the frequency of your medical visits. However, it isn’t a substitute for them as home blood pressure monitors do have some limitations. Work closely with your doctor to develop a routine that’s right for you. And if you decide to monitor your blood pressure at home, check it before you exercise to obtain the most accurate readings.
If you have high blood pressure, exercise can help you avoid developing hypertension. Or if you already have hypertension, engaging in regular physical activity can help bring it down to a safer level. When it comes to heart health, small lifestyle changes can work together in unison to create a lasting impact.
High blood pressure and high cholesterol are the two leading causes of heart disease. By making changes in your nutrition, physical activity and daily habits, you can greatly reduce your risk of heart disease. To learn more about high blood pressure, common risk factors of heart disease or to learn more about our cardiovascular program, we invite you to reach out at (918) 203-8000 to discuss a solution that’s right for you.