Yes, Yes and Yes!
Not only can you safely exercise with hypertension, you NEED to exercise with hypertension. Exercise on a regular basis helps to keep us healthy overall. With regular physical activity, the heart becomes stronger, therefore, it takes less effort to pump which reduces force on the arteries and lowers blood pressure to healthier levels. For some individuals, regular exercise can reduce the need for blood pressure medication. Hypertension, or any form of heart and vascular disease, doesn’t have to hamper our lives. In fact, this diagnosis should act as a wake-up call to treat our bodies better and live a healthier life.
How Do I Begin?
First, if you haven’t been active for a long time, do not begin with a 60-minute swim followed by a 4-mile jog home from the pool! Check with your physician to make sure that there are no extenuating circumstances that would limit your activity. Then start slowly. Don’t forget to warm up before exercising as it can help reduce the risk the risk of injury.
Walking is an excellent way to start. If you are an outdoors person, gather a couple of friends or neighbors and walk at a normal pace for 30 minutes. Otherwise, a treadmill is a great alternative. Gradually increase your distance and pace as you become more conditioned. Exercise becomes aerobic when you are slightly short of breath (but still able to speak), and your heart rate increases.
Other exercises that you may find fun include cycling, hiking, swimming, or active sports such as tennis or basketball. What is most important is that the exercise is something you enjoy doing. No one is going to keep up with an exercise program that is tortuous.
Your goal should be to build up to 30 minutes, 5 days per week. If you can’t set aside that amount of time all at once, you can breakup your workout into three 10-minute sessions and receive the same benefits as a 30-minute routine. If you work at a job where you are more sedentary, remember to regularly get up and walk around as research has shown that too much time sitting can contribute to several health conditions.
Monitor your blood pressure regularly. The purchase of a good automated blood pressure cuff is a great investment. Take your blood pressure at different times during the day or week (morning, following exercise, and before bedtime). With regular exercise, you will soon see the benefits reflected in your blood pressure results.
There are some practical everyday ways to increase the amount of exercise you are getting.
- Stop driving around that parking lot looking for the best spot. Take advantage of all those empty spaces farther away from the entrance. Depending on how much you shop, you can increase your weekly exercise by a decent amount.
- Take the stairs. If you do not have orthopedic issues and can walk up a flight of stairs, step away from the elevator and take the stairs instead.
- Spend some time with your children or grandchildren at the park. They will definitely keep you moving.
If you take advantage of these ideas, it will not even seem like you’re exercising.
Can I Exercise Too Much?
Your body will let you know what it can handle. Listen to it! Stop exercising and rest if you:
- Develop chest pain. If your chest pain does not go away after 5-10 minutes of rest, seek medical attention.
- Shortness of breath that renders you unable to speak.
- Pain in your back, jaw, neck or shoulders.
- Dizziness, lightheadedness, or weakness.
- Develop an irregular heartbeat. Seek medical attention if this occurs.
Since you have learned that it is safe to exercise with hypertension, and it is effective in reducing your blood pressure, get off the couch, get moving, and exercise your way to a healthy life and lower blood pressure!
Here are other great articles to help you on your way to staying healthy:
Fit Facts: Exercise and Hypertension - This is a great article about how to gauge blood pressure. It also includes suggested lifestyle modification recommendations.
Exercise: A drug-free approach to high blood pressure - This article by the Mayo Clinic offers great advice about how exercise can lower your blood pressure, how much exercise you need, and tips about monitoring your progress and keeping it safe.
Exercising Your Way to Lower Blood Pressure - This is a great summary of a handout the American College of Sports and Medicine that offers high blood pressure facts, ways to improve your health, and treatment choices.