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Exercise and Hypertension – High Blood Pressure

Updated: Apr 2

exercise hypertension

1 in 2 US adults,1 in 3 UK adults and 1 in 5 Singaporean adults, both men and women, have hypertension - high blood pressure. And they might not even know it. Look around your friends and colleagues. Look in the mirror (this includes me, as I have struggled with hypertension) and a significant number of us are united by “the silent killer”.


It is useful to know the facts and to get your blood pressure checked if you have not already done so. If you have yet to do so, one or more of these lifestyle factors or health conditions can cause high blood pressure: insufficient exercise, stress, poor sleep, carrying extra weight, eating processed foods, regularly eating out, drinking alcohol, diabetes, sleep apnoea. This is why so many people are at risk.


As ever, please talk to your doctor or medical practitioner most familiar with your medical history before implementing any changes in diet, exercise or lifestyle, especially if you are under treatment. Links to any supporting studies or resources are shared at the end of page.


Whether you have received a diagnosis and recommendation from the doctor to “exercise” or not – what level of exercise works to bring the numbers down?

 

The good news is that almost any level physical activity can help. It really depends on where you are starting from.


  • A gentle walk in the park can reduce blood pressure. As can the practice of taichi. Low intensity exercise gets the blood moving and works the cardiovascular system. Being out in nature, destressing, getting sunshine are all associated with lowering blood pressure.

  • The greater the intensity of physical activity, the more benefits can be accrued. Much of the research has been done on cardiovascular / aerobic exercise: running rather than say, dancing or swimming or vacuuming. Any exercise that gets the heart rate up and is safe to do, works. 5mmHg decreases are achievable with regular exercise, this is as much as some blood pressure medications but with none of the potential side effects. Exercise sessions can either be from as short as 10 minutes to 30 minutes or longer. Ideally 3 days per week or more. After exercise blood pressure decreases for up to 24 hours, this is called post-exercise hypotension.

hypertension strength training
Strength training can be excellent to reduce hypertension.
  • Some people enjoy strength training, weights or bodyweight exercise. This too successfully lowers blood pressure, especially when combined with cardiovascular exercise. The data suggests that strength training, performed with a moderate to vigorous load intensity, 2 or 3 days a week is required. Isometric training delivers greater benefits than other modalities, but all exercise is valuable. If you cannot yet manage that level of exercise, don’t worry. Start slowly and progress.


Even though there are immediate blood pressure lowering benefits in the 24 hours post exercise, studies indicate that the greatest benefits take place after two months of regular exercise. Stopping exercise and detraining leads to a rapid loss of its blood pressure lowering benefits, additional incentive to make regular physical activity part of one’s life.

 

In this article we have specifically discussed exercise and hypertension. Combining exercise with healthy eating, say the blood pressure lowering DASH Diet, provides even greater benefits. We have not addressed exercise’s other benefits for cardiovascular health, brain health, weight management, sarcopenia (age related muscle wastage), mobility… the list goes on. If you use exercise beat high blood pressure – you’ll not only feel fitter, you'll get all the additional benefits for free!


If you use exercise beat high blood pressure – you’ll not only feel fitter, you get all the additional benefits for free!


Stay Healthy,


Alastair

 

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Related Studies


Paluch AE, Boyer WR, Franklin BA, Laddu D, Lobelo F, Lee DC, McDermott MM, Swift DL, Webel AR, Lane A; on behalf the American Heart Association Council on Lifestyle and Cardiometabolic Health; Council on Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis and Vascular Biology; Council on Clinical Cardiology; Council on Cardiovascular and Stroke Nursing; Council on Epidemiology and Prevention; and Council on Peripheral Vascular Disease. Resistance Exercise Training in Individuals With and Without Cardiovascular Disease: 2023 Update: A Scientific Statement From the American Heart Association. Circulation. 2024 Jan 16;149(3):e217-e231. doi: 10.1161/CIR.0000000000001189. Epub 2023 Dec 7. PMID: 38059362.


Edwards JJ, Deenmamode AHP, Griffiths M, et al Exercise training and resting blood pressure: a large-scale pairwise and network meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials British Journal of Sports Medicine Published Online First: 25 July 2023. doi: 10.1136/bjsports-2022-106503


Igarashi Y. Effects of Differences in Exercise Programs With Regular Resistance Training on Resting Blood Pressure in Hypertensive Adults: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. J Strength Cond Res. 2023 Jan 1;37(1):253-263. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0000000000004236. Epub 2022 Apr 20. PMID: 35442242.


Igarashi Y, Nogami Y. Running to Lower Resting Blood Pressure: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. Sports Med. 2020 Mar;50(3):531-541. doi: 10.1007/s40279-019-01209-3. PMID: 31677122.


Weller RB, Wang Y, He J, Maddux FW, Usvyat L, Zhang H, Feelisch M, Kotanko P. Does Incident Solar Ultraviolet Radiation Lower Blood Pressure? J Am Heart Assoc. 2020 Mar 3;9(5):e013837. doi: 10.1161/JAHA.119.013837. Epub 2020 Feb 28. PMID: 32106744; PMCID: PMC7335547.


Blumenthal JA, Babyak MA, Hinderliter A, Watkins LL, Craighead L, Lin PH, Caccia C, Johnson J, Waugh R, Sherwood A. Effects of the DASH diet alone and in combination with exercise and weight loss on blood pressure and cardiovascular biomarkers in men and women with high blood pressure: the ENCORE study. Arch Intern Med. 2010 Jan 25;170(2):126-35. doi: 10.1001/archinternmed.2009.470. PMID: 20101007; PMCID: PMC3633078.



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