A sedentary lifestyle with little exercise is often related to various health problems, including high blood pressure. If you have been diagnosed with hypertension, find out how regular exercise can improve your blood pressure and overall health.
Importance of Aerobic Activity for Hypertension
When people become more physically active, they can lower their blood pressure on average of four to nine mm Hg (millimeters of mercury). For many, this amount may mean the difference between needing to take a blood pressure medication or not. The type of exercise that is needed to reduce hypertension is aerobic exercise.
How Can Aerobic Exercise Help Hypertension?
Aerobic activity is a very effective exercise for hypertension. According to the Mayo Clinic and the American Heart Association, regular exercise is vital to fighting hypertension, and aerobic activity should be included. Aerobic exercise is actually the easiest type of exercise and the most beneficial to your health. Aerobic exercise can:
- Lower blood pressure
- Strengthen your lungs and heart
- Help your immune system
- Help control your weight
- Increase your good cholesterol (HDL)
- Help control blood sugar
- Help reduce stress
Aerobic exercise can also help control or prevent many diseases.
What Is Aerobic Activity?
Aerobic exercise is any physical activity that increases both your heart and breathing rates. Cardiovascular conditioning is another benefit of aerobic exercise. The physical activity of your choosing should be done for 30 minutes at a minimum of five times a week. An activity or exercise that is aerobic also allows your body to supply and replenish the oxygen used by the muscles during the activity.
Sample Exercises for Hypertension
Aerobic exercise can be accomplished in many different ways. Several excellent methods include these exercises:
Walking or Hiking
Both leisure strolls and power walking are beneficial.
Biking can provide a good workout for the core and leg muscles.
Swimming is a good no impact exercise for people with joint problems or anyone new to exercise. It provides a total body workout.
Jogging provides an effective cardio workout and burns more calories than walking. If you are a beginner, start jogging slowly and work your way up to a faster pace.
Taking a dance class like Zumba or simply dancing the night away at a club can also burn calories and give you an aerobic workout.
Taking a class that interests you at your gym, the park district or on DVD that is appropriate for your fitness level can be fun and a great aerobic activity.
Remember to always begin an exercise routine gradually and work your way up. The following is an example of a basic workout:
- Start with a 5 to 10 minute warm up of stretches and light physical activity to get the muscles warmed up and the heart pumping.
- Do 20 to 30 minutes of aerobic activity.
- During this time, you should gradually increase the intensity to your fitness ability.
- Challenge yourself when you are ready and able.
- End with a 5 to 10 minute cool down.
- You will gradually decrease the exercise intensity to allow your heart rate to return to normal.
- A good, deep, series of stretches is always recommended as well.
Household Chores Considered Aerobic Activity
Some household chores also count as mild to moderate aerobic activity. You can fit in some exercise and take care of your home all at once with these tasks:
- Sweeping and mopping the floor
- Cleaning the yard by raking leaves or old grass
- Polishing a wood floor
- Scrubbing a tub, shower stall or floors
- Mowing the lawn
Exercise Equipment Used for Aerobic Exercise
There are also many types of exercise equipment that can be used for aerobic exercise. This type of equipment comes in many different price ranges. Appropriate equipment includes:
- Treadmills - Walking on a treadmill will help improve blood circulation and help lower blood pressure. When you are ready, you can increase the intensity to a light jog or run.
- Stationary bikes - Riding a bike can help strengthen the lungs and heart while improving respiratory function and regulating your blood pressure.
- Stair steppers - Using a stair stepper can be an intense exercise so you'll want to start slow. The benefits of this exercise include lowering blood pressure and reducing cholesterol.
- Rowing machines - Using a rowing machine is a great overall workout. You can also easily adjust the intensity to your fitness level. It can help strengthen your cardiovascular system and lower your blood pressure.
- Elliptical machines - An elliptical machine is a great cardio workout and is easier on the knees than a treadmill or stair stepper. It can help maintain a healthy blood pressure and will lessen your chance of experiencing any joint pain or injuries.
Warm Up and Cool Down
It is important to always begin your exercise session with a warm up that lasts from five to ten minutes. Your warm up is important for loosening your muscles and preparing your body and mind for the exercise session. Your warm up should include stretching and light physical activity that gradually increases in intensity. Your cool down time begins as you slowly decrease the intensity of the aerobic activity. Then spend the last five minutes of your cool down with stretches.
Exercises and Activities You May Want to Avoid if You Have Hypertension
Keep in mind, you may want to avoid the more intense, physically demanding exercises and activities such as:
- Weight lifting
- Scuba diving
- Running full speed
Check With Your Doctor
It is imperative that you consult with your doctor before starting a new exercise program, especially if you have high blood pressure. It is a good idea to check with your doctor to make sure the exercise program you choose is right for you. This is especially important if you fall into certain groups that are at higher risk.
Hypertension is a chronic health condition. People with high blood pressure are already at high risk, but other factors that raise this risk even higher include:
- You are overweight or obese.
- You are a smoker or have just quit in the past six months.
- You have high cholesterol.
- In addition to high blood pressure, you have an additional chronic health condition such as diabetes.
- You have experienced a heart attack or have a heart condition.
- There is a family history of problems that are heart related before the age of 55 in men and age 65 in women.
- You experience chest, arm, neck or jaw pain with exertion.
- You experience dizziness with any exertion.
- You are male aged 45 or over.
- You are female age 55 or over.
- You take prescription medication.
- You have not been to the doctor in a few years and do not know the current status of your health.
Exercise Can Reduce High Blood Pressure
Exercise is key to good overall health. With regular aerobic exercise, you can reduce your high blood pressure, but it is also important to maintain a healthy diet and lifestyle for optimum health.