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Mayo Clinic says it best, “exercising is a drug-free approach to lowering your blood pressure.” That is because high blood pressure and lack of exercise go hand in hand. If you have low blood pressure, you can benefit from regular exercise. too. But you may need to take certain safety measures.
Unlike other risk factors for high blood pressure like age or gender, you can control whether or not your work out. Simply adding more exercise into your day-to-day life can have a huge impact on your blood pressure readings.
The Link Between Blood Pressure And Fitness
Aerobic exercises such as swimming, cycling, and running are heart-healthy. They put extra demand on your heart and blood vessels, and you need to breathe more quickly. The heart pumps faster to deliver more oxygen to your muscles. In this process, and with regular exercise, your heart becomes stronger and stronger and needs to work less to pump the blood. Over time, the force in the arteries decreases, and your blood pressure lowers. This is when you have hypertension.
During exercise, it is normal for the systolic blood pressure (SBP) to rise to between 160-220 mmHg. However, it should go back down to normal soon after your workout.
According to research studies, regular working out can reduce SBP by 4-9 mmHg. This is as effective as some blood pressure medications. In some cases, improving your fitness level can decrease your need for drugs.
Low Blood Pressure And Exercise
If you have low blood pressure, you can benefit from regular exercise, too. But you will need to avoid workouts that involve sudden changes in your body’s position. For example, you will need to stand up slowly after sitting on a bench. By doing so, you will avoid sudden drops in blood pressure and dizziness. A small meal before a workout can also help.
Whether you have high or low blood pressure, it is vital to stay well-hydrated.
How Often And How Much You Should Exercise
Make exercise a part of your life, make it a priority, and commit to it. Consistency is key. If you feel that a lack of motivation is an issue, get a coach, a personal trainer, or a gym buddy. Make a schedule for going to the gym. For example, take a class at the same time of the day during the week.
Once upon a time, the Department of Health and Human Services recommended at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity a week, or a combination of moderate and vigorous activity. These recommendations had been changed to reflect the current research, and strength training (with weights) is now included.
According to the 2018 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, 2nd edition, adults need to do two types of physical activity weekly to improve their health: aerobic activity and muscle strengthening. This is true if you want to improve blood pressure levels, too.
Get details about different age groups here from the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Generally speaking, all adults age 18 years or older benefit from 150 minutes of moderate activity (like brisk walking) weekly, and two sessions of strength training each week. In addition, adults 65 years of age and older should incorporate exercises to improve balance.
Aim for physical exercise activity most days of the week. If you have a busy day, you can have three 10-minute workouts throughout the day. It is best to alternate strength training with aerobic exercise, rather than use those two sessions during consecutive days.
You can use moderate, vigorous aerobic exercise or a combination of the two. Here are three sample scenarios to use as guidelines from the CDC.
- Moderate-intensity aerobic activity, like brisk walking, 30 minutes a day, five days a week (for a total of 150 minutes weekly) plus two or more days with muscle-strengthening activities each week
- Vigorous-intensity aerobic activity like jogging or running for a total of 75 minutes per week. Make sure you get the “okay” from your doctor for intense and very intense cardio exercises. In addition, include two sessions of strength training weekly.
- Combine moderate and vigorous-intensity aerobic exercise on two or more days weekly. In addition, include two strength-training sessions a week.
When it comes to strength training, try to cover all major muscle groups (chest, shoulder, arms, legs, hips, back). Make sure you always stretch, warm up before exercise, and cool down when you finish your workout.
Finally, what gets measured can get managed. Track all your workouts and your diet on your phone. All phones come with a free Health app, and many other apps are available to download. Include other activities such as household chores like mowing the lawn, gardening, or cleaning the floor, as they are all part of staying active.