What is High Blood Pressure?

When the heart beats it creates pressure to pump blood throughout the body. If this pressure is too high it can damage the blood vessels leading to problems such as heart disease, stroke, kidney failure, and aneurysms. Blood pressure above 140/90 is considered high. Ideally resting blood pressure should below 120/80.

Can exercise help?

The short answer is YES! There are causes for high blood pressure that you cannot change including:

  1. Ethnic background
  2. Family history
  3. Age

There are several possible causes for high blood pressure which you can change including:

  1. Increased body weight
  2. High sodium (salt) intake
  3. Physical inactivity

Frequently the cause of high blood pressure is unknown and medication is the only way to achieve an optimum pressure. Even if this is the case, regular exercise is beneficial for your overall health and may allow you to control your blood pressure with less medication.

Blood pressure is usually lower following moderate to vigorous endurance exercise. This response can last for up to 22 hours following exercise. Exercise can help with weight management. Decreased body weight may help lower your blood pressure.

Dizziness following exercise

Your blood pressure will likely be lower following an aerobic workout. This is a normal response to exercise but it may be low enough to cause dizziness, especially when you stand up or get up from the floor. You can manage this by:

  1. Always cool down at the end of your workout.
  2. Get up slowly and stand for a few moments before moving.
  3. Contact your doctor if this continues to be a problem. You may need a change in your medications.


Aerobic Exercise

Exercise that increases your heart rate and breathing rate. At least 150 minutes per week of moderate or at least 75 minutes of vigorous exercise or a combination of moderate and vigorous exercise is recommended. Exercise at least 3 days each week. Exercise can be done in one session each day or in multiple short sessions. If you cannot do this much exercise, especially when you first start exercising that is OK. This is amount of exercise is recommended but any amount you do will improve your health.

Exercising most days of the week takes advantage of the blood pressure lowering effects of exercise.

Aerobic or endurance exercise is one important part of your blood pressure management strategy. Adding resistance and flexibility training will provide even more benefit.

Resistance Exercise

Resistance training can increase your strength, making your daily activities easier. Exercise for all upper and lower body major muscle groups 2 to 3 days each week. You can perform resistance training on consecutive days but not for the same muscles. Allow at least 48 hours rest between exercise sessions for each muscle group. Resistance training can be done with machines, free weights, elastic bands, or body weight resistance.

Flexibility Exercise

This is most effective after your resistance or aerobic training sessions when your muscles are warm. Stretches should be done for all major muscle groups at least 2 to 3 days each week. Stretches should be held for at least 10 seconds for a total of 60 seconds for each muscle group.

Balance / Agility Exercise

Balance and agility is not only important for sports, it is also important for day to day activities. Activities such as climbing a ladder, standing on one foot to put your pants on, or getting in and out of a boat require considerable balance and agility. There are many ways to improve your balance skills such as standing on one foot, doing exercises on a wobble board or BOSU ball, Tai Chi, or yoga. Balance exercises should be done at least 2 to 3 days each week.