A sedentary lifestyle or a lack of exercise is a major factor in developing hypertension or high blood pressure. But even so, not all exercises are the same. While any exercise can boost your physical health and well-being, some exercises may be more beneficial when managing hypertension than others. This article takes you through the best exercise to lower blood pressure that you should include in your exercise routine.
What is high blood pressure?
High blood pressure is a chronic condition that occurs due to structural changes in your blood vessels, causing the heart to pump blood harder than it should, leading to an increase in blood pressure.
In other words, it’s an increase in the force of blood pushing against the blood vessel walls.
High blood pressure is often termed a silent killer because it shows no symptoms while the damage is still ongoing. In fact, research shows that more than half of all Americans have it, and most don’t know they have it until a major cardiovascular event occurs.
The high numbers are highly associated with sedentary living in addition to the standard American diet high in processed foods containing cholesterol, trans fats, and too much sodium, among other things.
A regular check-up at the doctor is the best way to know your blood pressure status. But more than that, leading a healthy and active lifestyle will give you more freedom knowing that they all contribute to a healthy cardiovascular system, including maintaining normal blood pressure levels.
How does exercise lower blood pressure?
1. Exercise strengthens the heart muscles
Like any muscle can get stronger with regular exercise, your heart is a muscle and can get stronger with each exercise session you engage in.
A strong heart is better able to pump more blood with ease and doesn’t have to work as hard to maintain normal blood pressure levels. This can lower your risk of high blood pressure or improve your condition. It can also help reduce your risk of heart disease.
2. Exercise increases the production of nitric oxide
Research shows that exercise can increase nitric oxide production from the endothelial cells (the cells lining your blood vessels). Nitric oxide is a gaseous vasodilator that dilates and relaxes blood vessel walls, causing blood pressure to drop.
3. Exercise helps to maintain a healthy weight.
When you are overweight, your heart has to work harder to pump blood around your body. This extra work can lead to high blood pressure or worsen an existing condition. Losing weight lowers the force that your heart has to exert and can therefore help lower your blood pressure.
4. Exercise reduces stress and anxiety levels
Anxiety and stress are big contributors to high blood pressure. When you’re anxious, your heart rate increases and your blood vessels constrict, raising your blood pressure. Exercise is a great way to reduce stress and anxiety levels, as it releases endorphins, which are natural mood boosters. Exercise also takes your mind off of whatever is causing your stress and anxiety.
5. Exercise can help to lower cholesterol levels
Cholesterol is a waxy substance found in your blood. Your body needs some cholesterol to work properly. But if you have too much in your blood, it can stick to the walls of your arteries and form plaque. Over time, plaque can harden and narrow your arteries, leading to heart disease, heart attack, or stroke.
Exercise has been shown to lower cholesterol levels by increasing the amount of HDL (good) cholesterol in your blood, which plays a role in removing LDL cholesterol from the arteries.
6. Exercise can improve sleep quality
Exercise helps regulate your body’s sleep-wake cycle. It does this by increasing the amount of time you spend in deep sleep (the most restful stage of sleep) and reducing the amount of time you spend in light sleep.
When you sleep, your body relaxes, and your heart rate slows down. This gives your blood vessels a chance to naturally dilate, or widen, which lowers your blood pressure. If you suffer from high blood pressure, getting enough sleep is essential to control your condition.
7.Exercise reduces inflammation
Inflammation is the root cause of most chronic conditions, and when it comes to high blood pressure, inflammation can damage the inner lining of the blood vessels, increasing the risk of developing it.
Exercise helps increase the production of anti-inflammatory chemicals in the body. It also improves blood circulation, which delivers more oxygen and nutrients to tissues and helps remove waste products that can contribute to inflammation.
In addition, exercise promotes the release of endorphins, which have natural anti-inflammatory effects.
Finally, exercise can fight inflammation by reducing stress hormones that have also been shown to cause inflammation.
How much exercise should you do to lower blood pressure?
It’s no secret that exercise is good for your health. But if you’re looking to lower your blood pressure, you might wonder how much exercise you need to do to see results.
According to the American Heart Association, on average, you should get 30 minutes or more of aerobic activities five days a week.
However, other factors may come to play when deciding how much exercise you need.
These may include
Your current activity level: If you’re not very active right now, the 30-minute mark per day is an excellent place to start. However, if you are seasoned, then you can go higher.
Your fitness goals: If your goal is simply to lower your blood pressure, then moderate-intensity activities for at least 30 minutes most days of the week should be enough. But if you’re also looking to improve your overall fitness level, you might need longer workouts.
Your health status: In general, people who are more fit tend to have a lower blood pressure than those who are less fit. So if you have other health conditions or risk factors for high blood pressure (like obesity or diabetes), you might need to do more than the minimum recommended amount of exercise and be consistent to see results.
Considering the above, the best way to determine how much exercise is right for you is to talk with your doctor or another healthcare professional. They can help you create an individualized plan to help with your condition.
But as a general goal, aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity every day.
How Long does it take to lower blood pressure with physical exercise
According to experts, it takes about one-three months of consistent physical activity to see changes in your blood pressure. Also, the changes can only last as long as you stay active.
So physical activities to lower blood pressure should not be a one-time thing but something you incorporate into your routine and do regularly if you want lasting results.
Best exercise to lower Blood Pressure
Aerobics are structured and repetitive physical activities that move large muscle groups in the body and compel you to use oxygen for energy.
They are often referred to as cardio or cardiovascular exercises because they increase the heart’s capacity to take up oxygen and transport it to the rest of the body.
Aerobic activities increase your heart rate, causing you to breathe faster and more quickly to maximize the oxygen in your blood. This kind of exercise can help strengthen the heart and lungs and improve circulation.
They can help lower blood pressure, improve blood sugar, promote better sleep, boost mood, and enhance weight management.
A good example of aerobic exercises include
1. Rope jumping
Skipping rope is often likened to jogging, as it can increase your heart rate and breathing, thus conditioning the cardiovascular system. Experts believe 10 minutes of rope skipping each day is enough to create cardiovascular adaptations that may lead to reduced resting heart rate and low blood pressure.
While you may feel the urge to take longer jumping sessions, the act of jumping may impose some stress on your legs and connective tissues, which may cause an injury if you are not seasoned to endure. The right strategy is to start small and build your way to longer periods instead of starting from the top.
In one study, walking 10,000 steps a day or more was shown to reduce blood pressure and increase exercise capacity in patients with hypertension, irrespective of the intensity or duration of the exercise.
If you are wondering what 10,000 steps look like, they equate to about eight kilometers or 1 hour and forty minutes of walking, depending on your speed and stride length.
What’s good, you don’t have to do all of it at once as you can easily accumulate your steps in your normal day-to-day activities. But to increase your chances of getting to 10,000 steps, you may need an additional 30 minutes walk. You can easily do this in the morning or evening or whenever you find it suitable.
You can even further break it down to 10 minutes of brisk or moderate walking three times a day.
Another study found that walking for 150 minutes per week for three months reduced systolic blood pressure by 40mmHg.
Jogging is another simple physical activity that can help lower your blood pressure without causing a strain on your bones or surrounding muscles. All you need is some good jogging shoes. Besides, jogging is very flexible, and you can do it from the comfort of your home. Whether you’ll take it to the yard, in the living room, or open space, map out a route through your home and get moving
Numerous studies have shown that swimming can indeed lower blood pressure and improve cardiovascular health.
In a study published in the American Journal of Cardiology, older adults with prehypertension or stage 1 hypertension and not on medication were assigned 12 weeks of swimming exercise. At the end of the study, they recorded a drop in their systolic blood pressure from between 128 and 134 to about 118 and 126 mmHg. Their blood vessel functions also improved. On the other hand, the control group assigned gentle relaxation exercises did not have any improvement.
Cycling is a good fun activity that most people engage in, and surprisingly it can help keep your blood pressure under control if done regularly.
In one observational study, 20 young adults with type 2 diabetes in a regular cycling program recorded improved blood glucose levels, weight, and blood pressure.
Dancing can help improve your confidence, flexibility, and balance. It can also promote better blood flow, which may result in reduced blood pressure levels.
In one study, researchers found that dance therapy reduced systolic and diastolic blood pressure in patients with hypertension. However, some variations were observed, which opens room for more studies to confirm the same.
Nonetheless, a little bit of some dance to your routine won’t hurt. Besides, it’s the easiest way to work your heart and lungs.
7. Strength training exercises
Also known as resistant training, strength training is a type of exercise that involves using your body weight or tools like dumbbells to create resistance. This can help build endurance and strength and build muscles. This form of exercise can also increase mobility and flexibility, improve performance, and lower the risk of injury.
Moderate strength training activities have also been shown to lower blood pressure. However, intense training can actually raise your blood pressure. So if you’re considering incorporating these activities into your routine, go for low-volume resistant training with higher repetitions and remember to exhale on muscle exertion.
Exercises to Avoid with High Blood Pressure
HIIT (High-Intensity Interval Training)
HIIT involves short bursts of very intense activity followed by periods of rest or active recovery.
While HIIT can be an effective workout for some people, it can be risky for those with high blood pressure.
This is because HIIT causes a sudden heart rate and blood pressure spike. This can put too much strain on a heart that’s already working under high pressure, potentially leading to a hypertensive crisis.
Sprinting requires so much energy all at once, which exerts sudden stress on the heart to meet the high energy demands. Again, this can be a burden to a heart that’s already trying its best to maintain normal functions.
Heavy lifting can strain your heart and blood vessels and cause a rapid increase in blood pressure.
Lowering blood pressure through exercise is an effective way to improve your overall health and well-being.
It can fight inflammation, strengthen your heart muscles, lower cholesterol, promote better sleep, and improve anxiety, all of which can help maintain normal blood pressure.
While this is true about exercise, not all exercises are beneficial for lowering blood pressure. In fact, some may cause more harm than good.
Aerobics are the most recommended form of activity you should consider adding to your routine.
They include things like swimming, walking, jogging, or even rope skipping. Moderate strength training activities can also help but be careful not to go overboard.
That said, exercise alone is not enough to maintain healthy blood pressure. Ensure you’re incorporating other healthy habits like eating a healthy diet, managing stress, getting enough sleep, and avoiding smoking.
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