High blood pressure (also termed hypertension) is a chronic medical problem that increases the blood pressure in your arteries. When your blood pressure is elevated, the performance of your heart is negatively affected. Your heart has to work harder to circulate the blood through the vessels of your body. Normal blood pressure is 120/80 mmHg or below while high blood pressure is repeatedly 140/90 mmHg or higher. High blood pressure should not be ignored as it is a major risk factor for many health problems including stroke, heart attack, heart failure, aneurysms, arterial disease and kidney disease.
If your doctor detects that your blood pressure is heightened early, you should be able to manage it through lifestyle changes, including diet and exercise modifications. This doesn’t mean that you have to become a high performance athlete. Simple changes to your daily routine will have a big impact on your blood pressure. It will take approximately one to three months of regular exercise for you to see noticeable changes in your blood pressure.
How are Exercise and Blood Pressure Connected?
All forms of exercise including, aerobic exercises, flexibility exercises and lifting weights, have a direct impact on your blood pressure. Exercise improves the performance of your heart by making it stronger. A healthy, strong heart can pump blood more efficiently which means that it has to work less, lowering the blood pressure in the arteries.
If your blood pressure is in the healthy range, at or below 120/80 mmHg, then exercising will help to maintain the healthy blood pressure as you age. Regular physical activity will help you to maintain a healthy weight so that you won’t need to lose weight later in life. If you are overweight with normal blood pressure, exercising will not only maintain your blood pressure, but will help you to lose weight. Even if you currently don’t have high blood pressure, obesity increases your risk of developing it later in life, so if you lose weight, you will decrease your risk of developing this health problem.
What Types of Exercises Should you do?
To get the best possible health benefits, including increasing the performance of your heart and lowering your blood pressure, a combination of aerobic exercises and lifting weights should be incorporated into your exercise routine. Aerobic exercises are any activities that get your heart pumping – this is the type of exercise that will improve the performance of your heart the most. Some performance enhancing activities include: household chores (mopping, vacuuming, etc.), brisk walking, biking, jogging, swimming, etc. It is recommended that you do aerobic-type exercise for approximately 30 minutes per day. Keep in mind that aerobic exercise is cumulative. This means that short bursts of exercise can be added throughout the day to reach 30 minutes – 10 minutes here, 10 minutes there and so on, it doesn’t seem to intimidating now does it? Another great benefit of aerobic exercise is that it will help you to lose weight.
Lifting weights is another type of exercise that you should add to your exercise routine to improve the performance of your heart. It is important to follow a few safety tips when you start lifting weights to minimize the risk of injury.
1. Use proper form – if needed, consult a personal trainer to learn the exercise properly
2. Breathe – do not hold your breath when lifting weights. Holding your breath can cause an unwanted increase in blood pressure
3. Lift light – to improve the performance of your heart, it’s better to lift a lighter weight for more repetitions. If you lift heavy weights, you may have an increase in blood pressure due to the increase in exertion level
4. Don’t over-do it – if your body is fatigued, or you experience pain, stop what you’re doing to avoid injury
5. Don’t be a “weekend warrior” – This term refers to those who don’t have time during the work week to get enough exercise, so they overextend themselves on the weekend to compensate. Instead, consider breaking up your workout into 10-minute blocks over the week. This will help you avoid potential injury from working out too hard in a short amount of time.
Keep in mind, that if you start doing cardio, lifting weights or any other type of exercise, you must continue to do so to keep your blood pressure in check. If you stop working out, you will not maintain the blood pressure benefits and will have to look elsewhere to control it (such as prescription medication). Exercises, including aerobic type activities and lifting weights will not only help you to lose weight, it will improve the performance of your heart in addition to improving the performance of many other body systems. If you’re looking for a safe, natural approach to lowering your blood pressure, exercise is the answer!
Is exercising safe for hypertension?
Strenuous workouts can be of some concern for those with pre-existing health problems, as they may feel that they’re making their condition worse. However, being active is one of the best things you can do for your blood pressure, as long as you stay within your own personal limitations. Exercising can get the heart pumping and lungs breathing, which is great for blood circulation. But if you start to feel chest pain or get dizzy, take a break. If you feel you need serious medical attention, call 911 right way.
Yoga for high blood pressure
The act of stretching and breathing exercises have a calming effect on the body that combats the negative effects of stress. These are the general practices of an exercise form called yoga, which is performed by millions of people around the world.
The following are various yoga practices and how to perform them. It is advised for those wanting to start yoga to help manage blood pressure to speak with their primary care physician before starting any form of physical exercise.
- This is often described as being a state of awareness that is nonreactive and non-attached, and as a result, it brings calm and focused attention to an otherwise endless stream of thought running through your mind. It is recommended to find a quiet spot and wear comfortable clothes when performing this type of yoga practice.
- Start by sitting on the floor cross-legged and spine erect (sukhasana) while resting both hands on the knee while making a ring with your thumb and index fingers (gyan mudra). Close your eyes and slow your breathing in and out while you concentrate on your breathing.
- Now close your eyes and begin to regulate your breathing so that you are exhaling for five counts and inhaling for five counts. Focus on the in and out motion of your breathing. Then begin to breathe
- Do not focus on any particular thought or object, rather, let your mind wander, then gently bring your awareness back to your breathing.
- Now let your thoughts wander, gently guiding them and allowing them to pass, like clouds floating in the sky.
- Perform this exercise 10 minutes a day, gradually extending them to 20 or 30 minutes as you learn to better maintain this relaxed state.
Alternate nostril breathing:
- Also known as Nadi Shodhana, literally meaning “channel clearing,” this exercise alternates the blockage of each nostril channel air in a concentrated flow. It is believed that this exercise helps to balance the channels of energy in the body, while activating and harmonizing the left and right hemispheres of the brain, helping to relieve stress and anxiety.
- Begin by sitting on the floor cross-legged and spine erect and closing the right nostril with your right thumb.
- Now inhale deeply through the left nostril.
- Close the left nostril with your right ring finger, while at the same time opening up your right nostril.
- Now exhale through your right nostril
- While keeping your left nostril closed, inhale deeply through your right nostril and seal it again with your right thumb
- Now release your left nostril and exhale
- Repeat this process
- Also known as the simple cross-legged pose (Sukhasana), it can help to strengthen the back and stretch the knees and ankles. Additionally, by sitting upright with your spine aligned in a straight line, you can reduce stress and anxiety.
- Begin by sitting at the edge of a firm blanket, crossing your legs in front of your shins. You may use a block or rolled up pillow to sit on.
- Balance your weight evenly across your pelvic bone while aligning your head, neck, and spine as straight as you can.
- Relax your feet and thighs as you lengthen your spine
- Hold this position for about a minute or for as along as possible before releasing and changing the way your legs are crossed.
Being diagnosed with high blood pressure should not be taken lightly, as it can lead to several unwanted and frankly life-threatening complications if not treated or taken seriously. While it is highly recommended to maintain a lifestyle that promotes exercise and a healthy diet, you should adhere to the advice of your doctor.