Exercising with high blood pressure can be daunting. You’ve undoubtedly heard it can be good for you, but perhaps you’re not comfortable with the risks and the way it feels. Going too hard may get your blood pressure too high and put you at risk for a heart attack or leave you feeling like your heart is going to beat out of your chest. That’s surely enough to want to put the brakes on.
But exercise is proven to have long-term effects on blood pressure and is just as important as medical and dietary measures. Lowering blood pressure can reduce the risk of heart disease, heart attack, and stroke, along with other life-threatening medical conditions. But exercise isn’t something you should just jump into. If you’ve got high blood pressure, here are some tips on how to exercise safely.
Frequency: Getting aerobic exercise each day—walking, cycling, swimming—is recommended. Strength training (resistance training/weight training) should be done twice per week on non-consecutive days.
Intensity: When starting, try to get up to moderate intensity. For aerobic exercise, that means working at between 60–70 percent of your maximum target heart rate. You can figure out your max target heart rate by subtracting your age from 220. It can be monitored with on-body devices or on aerobic equipment at a gym. Weight training intensity should allow you to complete two or three sets of 10-12 repetitions, waiting about one minute in between sets. As you progress in both your aerobic and strength exercise, intensity can increase.
Duration: Shoot for about 30-minutes of aerobic activity per day. If ability and timing are an issue for you, consider breaking it up into three 10-minute sessions. Strength training should be about as long as it takes to do at least one movement per major muscle group at two to three sets and 10-12 reps. Major muscle groups are chest, back, shoulders, arms (biceps, triceps), core, and legs (quads, hamstrings, calves).
Talking to your doctor is extremely important if you plan on starting an exercise program with high blood pressure. They can assess your capabilities, provide recommendations, and even work with a personal trainer if you hire one.
You can exercise safely with high blood pressure, so don’t let your condition dissuade you. Activity is a major contributor to a healthy lifestyle and promotes lower blood pressure and healthy heart.