Exercise and Your Blood Pressure

Being physically active is good for one’s health, and it’s never too late to get started. Even small amounts of exercise can have powerful effects in lowering your blood pressure as well as reducing your risk for developing hypertension-related problems such as heart attack and stroke. For all adults, some physical activity is better than none. And remember, check with your doctor before starting a new exercise program.

Becoming more active can lower your systolic blood pressure (the top number) by an average of 4-9 mmHg, which is as good as some blood pressure medications. Regular exercise also helps you maintain a healthy weight, makes your bones and muscles stronger, reduces the risk of falls as well as hip fractures, decreased stress levels and improves your blood sugar.

How much physical activity do you need?

  • Being active is easier than you think. This does not mean that you have to run a marathon, but it does mean that this should be something that becomes part of your normal routine.
  • If possible, do some kind of moderate to vigorous exercise at least 2-1⁄2 hours a week or 30 minutes, 5 times a week. Some ways to exercise are brisk walking, jogging, and fitness classes.

Adults need at least:

  • Note that 10 minutes at a time is OK.
  • Two and a half hours (150 minutes) each week sounds like a lot of time, but it’s not. That’s about the same amount of time you might spend watching a movie. The good news is that you can spread your activity out during the week, so you don’t have to do it all at once, even in 10-minute blocks of time.

What are examples of moderate-intensity aerobic activity?

Moderate-intensity means you are working hard enough to raise your heart rate and break a sweat. Here are some examples:

  • Walking fast
  • Doing water aerobics
  • Riding a bike on level ground
  • Playing doubles tennis
  • Pushing a lawn mower

What are examples of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity?

Vigorous-intensity means you are breathing hard and fast, and your heart rate has gone up quite a bit. Here are some examples:

  • Jogging or running
  • Swimming laps
  • Riding a bike fast
  • Playing singles tennis
  • Playing basketball

Muscle-strengthening activities

You can do activities that strengthen your muscles on the same or different days that you do aerobic activities, whatever works best. There are many ways you can strengthen your muscles, whether it’s at home or the gym. You may want to try the following:

  • Lifting weights
  • Working with resistance bands
  • Doing exercises that use your body weight for resistance (i.e. push ups, sit ups)
  • Heavy gardening (i.e. digging, shoveling)
  • Yoga

Exercise Tips

  • Wear shoes and clothing that feel good.
  • Drink a glass of water before you start and have extra water ready if you need it.
  • Start slowly. After 5 minutes of slow, gentle movement, stop, and stretch. This will help reduce injury and soreness later.
  • Move fast enough that you feel a little out of breath, but no so out of breath that you can’t talk.
  • Slow down again for the last 5 minutes.
  • Now stretch again to cool your muscles down.

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