If you want to lower your blood pressure or avoid taking blood pressure medication, exercise is essential. Exercise and blood pressure are very closely related, and the truth is that the more active you are the less likely you are to experience high blood pressure.
High blood pressure is a major player in heart disease, heart attacks, and stroke. It is an issue that more than 75 million Americans are dealing with.
Some 75% of people over age 60 have high blood pressure, and unsurprisingly, this is also a group that has seen its activity level decrease substantially.
Exercise is an effective method to control and lower blood pressure. It costs virtually nothing and requires little-to-no equipment.
How does exercise lower blood pressure? It really has a multi-faceted approach.
The first thing it does is stimulate your heart to circulate oxygen-rich blood through your arteries. This allows your arteries to relax and soften, and makes it easier for blood to pass through.
It also allows your heart to be more efficient, and finally, exercise promotes healthier lipid profiles, lower cholesterol, less belly fat, and better glucose utilization.
3 Easy Ways to Lower Blood Pressure
Exercise for high blood pressure should be at the top of your list if it’s something you’re concerned about.
It is best used to treat moderately high blood pressure or pre-hypertensive conditions. But it can also bring down blood pressure in those with hypertension.
If you are hypertensive, however, you should remain on blood pressure medication until you’ve experienced reductions that make it safe to abandon.
Exercises that lower blood pressure vary, but the place to start is often with aerobic exercise. Resistance exercise can also benefit blood pressure, but aerobic is where you should focus early on.
1. Aerobic Exercise to Lower Blood Pressure
Aerobic exercise is a term used to describe exercise that focuses on pumping oxygenated blood through the arteries and into the muscles.
It is performed at various intensities, and even moderate-intensity aerobic exercise can have some big benefits for blood pressure.
Some examples of aerobic exercises for blood pressure include:
In my opinion, walking is the best exercise to lower blood pressure, especially if you have high blood pressure, pre-hypertension, and hypertension.
First off, walking is low impact and will not put much of a burden on your joints. Secondly, it’s extremely accessible—all you need is some shoes and a street.
Finally, it allows you to maximize your time because you can easily talk on the phone, listen to a podcast or audiobook, or dedicate your brain power to something else.
A number of studies have shown that walking has big benefits. For example, a Korean study noted that people with hypertension or pre-hypertension were able to regulate and drop their blood pressure by five points by going for a brisk 40-minute walk each day.
A “brisk” pace means that you’re going about three to four miles per hour. That’s fast enough to work up a little sweat but not to the point where you couldn’t maintain a conversation.
Now, you may be thinking, “Well, I don’t have 40 minutes to go for a walk each day,” and that would be perfectly reasonable. Because of this reality, the researchers also examined whether shorter “quickie” walks had any impact.
When the 40 minutes was distributed over four 10-minute walks throughout the day, blood pressure dropped by an average of three points.
A similar study from Arizona State University found that going on three 10-minute walks per day was able to lower blood pressure in the afternoon and evening, while carrying over to the next day.
This shows that by regularly using your body, you can change your state of health to lower blood pressure and improve blood flow.
2. Resistance Training to Lower Blood Pressure
Resistance exercise can also be useful in reducing blood pressure over the long term, even though it induces acute increases in blood pressure during execution.
Although there are plenty of benefits to resistance training, there is still more research to be done in examining exactly how it can lower blood pressure. It’s likely not your first option, but it is an integral part of a well-balanced exercise program.
Resistance training is a way to strengthen and build muscle using tools like weights, bands, kettlebells, or even bodyweight. It’s been found to lower blood pressure by reducing both the systolic (the top number of a blood pressure reading) and diastolic (the bottom number) pressure by over three points each in healthy populations.
Lower blood pressure typically kicks in about an hour after a resistance training session and can last for about 10 hours. However, it is important to note that the benefits are best experienced and enhanced with consistent effort.
Some research indicates that low-to-moderate intensity resistance exercise works best to reduce blood pressure. This means that you should be working in higher-volume work, focusing on sets of 12 to 20 repetitions and never working to failure, but leaving three reps in the tank for each set.
There are no specific exercises that lower blood pressure; the activity alone is what does it.
Resistance exercise is something you should work up to if you’re sedentary. Include it with aerobic activity once you’re in adequate shape, and only under the advice of a doctor of you’ve got high blood pressure.
3. Isometric Hand Grip Exercise to Lower Blood Pressure
Hand grip exercises may lower blood pressure by making the blood vessels more flexible and improving their function.
Tests using highly sophisticated hand grips have shown that using hand grips can lower blood pressure by as much as some hypertension drugs, dropping the systolic reading by an average of 14 points.
It’s important to note that the hand grips used in these studies are quite advanced and very expensive. They are not items that you can just pick up at any fitness store.
Furthermore, they are not covered by insurance providers, so the out-of-pocket expense is at least $300.00. There is a manufacturer called “Zona” that makes consumer models.
As far as exercises that lower blood pressure go, hand grip exercises may be worthwhile in addition to an exercise program that includes aerobic and resistance training. They should not be an alternative to them.
The Best Exercises to Lower Blood Pressure
To lower blood pressure, exercise is the best treatment available. Getting at least 150 minutes per week of exercise is recommended, but more is always better.
I recommend starting by taking some brisk walks around the neighborhood, either in shorter spurts or longer periods, and monitoring your progress. As your blood pressure drops, talk to your doctor about incorporating some resistance sessions for even more benefits.
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