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Exercise to Fight Hypertension

Nearly 1 in 3 adults — 75 million Americans — has high blood pressure, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. While eating healthier and reducing sodium intake are great ways to lower your blood pressure, exercise is a crucial and potentially fun way to fight hypertension.


For instance, the American Heart Association recommends that people with high blood pressure and high cholesterol carry out an average of 40 minutes of moderate- to vigorous-intensity workouts three or four days each week. There are a number of benefits to simple physical activity. A small study published in the journal Hypertension looked at exercise’s impact on blood pressure in 50 people — 29 women and 21 men — with resistant hypertension (a reading of 140/90 in spite of a treatment of three or more concurrent drugs). The participants were assigned to an 8- to 12-week treadmill-walking exercise program while their blood pressure was monitored around the clock. The participants found their systolic and diastolic blood pressures lowered as a result of the treadmill regimen.

The study showed that exercise can lower blood pressure even in people who normally have a suboptimal response to medical treatment. For those who like lifting weights, there’s good news: Strength training can also help in the management of hypertension. One small 2012 study in the Journal of Human Hypertension looked at 15 middle-aged men who had high blood pressure and had previously exercised less than two hours each week. After two weeks of weight training three times a week (involving repetitions of basic resistance exercises, like leg presses, bicep curls, and chest presses, among others), these men experienced an average systolic blood pressure reduction of 16 mm Hg (millimeters of mercury is the unit for measuring blood pressure). Making exercise a habit can help lower your blood pressure. It also gives you more energy, and it's a great way to ease stress and feel better Training clients with high blood pressure .

Check in with your doctor first if you're not already active now. They'll make sure you're ready for exercise. Since an active lifestyle is good for your blood pressure, your doctor will likely be all for it. You don't need to go to a gym. You just need to be active enough that you are breathing harder and making your heart beat a little faster. That includes brisk walking, jogging, swimming, biking, lifting weights, or doing yard work.

To pick an activity, two good questions to ask yourself are:

What sounds like fun?

Would you rather exercise in a group, or on your own?

What Type of Exercise Is Best?

Cardiovascular, or aerobic, exercise can help lower your blood pressure and make your heart stronger. Examples include walking, jogging, jumping rope, bicycling (stationary or outdoor), cross-country skiing, skating, rowing, high- or low-impact aerobics, swimming, and water aerobics. Strength training builds strong muscles that help you burn more calories throughout the day. It’s also good for your joints and bones. Stretching makes you more flexible, helps you move better, and helps prevent injury.

How Often Should You Exercise?

Go for moderate activity, like brisk walking, at least 30 minutes a day, at least 5 days a week. If you’re short on time, vigorous activity, like jogging, gives you the same benefit in 20 minutes, 3 to 4 days a week. If you’re not active today, gradually work up to this amount of exercise. If it takes you a few weeks to get there, that’s absolutely fine.


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