High blood pressure or hypertension, is extremely common. It affects 1 in 3 American adults! That’s about 75 million people. Only half have their blood pressure under control, and it starts with exercise.
Known as the “silent killer”, high blood pressure increases the risk for heart disease and stroke. These are the nation’s top two causes of death.1 Specifically, heart disease takes the lead, taking responsibility for 1 in every 4 deaths. More than half are men.2
Normal blood pressure is 120/80 mmHg. If it’s in between 120/80 and 140/90 mmHg, prehypertension is at play. Anything higher counts as hypertension.3 If you have high blood pressure, your doctor might prescribe anti-hypertensive drugs. However, that’s only the beginning! Physical activity is a must for fighting hypertension.
How Does Exercise Help Blood Pressure?
1. Exercising Increases Nitric Oxide
The science behind exercise comes down to nitric oxide. This compound widens blood vessels, helping blood flow easily. It’s made by an enzyme called nitric oxide synthase, which is found in the tissue that lines blood vessels. When you work out, the expression of nitric oxide synthase increases. In turn, more nitric oxide is produced, making blood vessels expand. Of course, it won’t happen after one workout. Long-term exercise is needed to make a real impact.4
2. Exercising Promotes Weight Loss
Being overweight or obese is a risk factor for high blood pressure. With regular exercise, weight can be kept in check.5 To lose one pound of fat, you’ll need to burn 3,500 calories. Exercise is a must, but it’s only part of the game. Decreasing energy intake is also necessary! The goal is to burn more calories than you take in.6
3. Exercising Reduces Stress
Physical activity is one of the best ways to beat stress. And while the relationship between stress and blood pressure is unclear, it certainly exists. While it’s true that it raises heart rate and constricts blood vessels, it’s only temporary. Stress does increase the risk for poor lifestyle choices, though.
Examples include eating unhealthy food, smoking cigarettes, and drinking too much alcohol. All of these can snowball into hypertension.7 Therefore, by relieving stress, you can avoid habits that raise blood pressure.
How To Make Exercise Work For You
Now you know why physical activity helps blood pressure. The next step is to get moving! Here are six beginner tips.
1. Start Slow
When you’re just starting out, take it easy. Don’t attempt to run a mile on your first day. Instead, begin with a 10 minute walk around the block. Increase the duration over time then move up to jogging.
2. Pace Yourself
The same mentality goes for intensity. Instead of lifting heavy weights or high-intensity workouts, go for low-key activities. Yoga and lifting 2-pound weights are perfect examples.
3. Grab A Buddy
A friend doubles as an accountability partner. By working out together, you’ll be less likely to bail. It also turns exercise into a fun and sociable activity.
4. Stay Hydrated
Drink enough water before, during, after exercise. Sweating makes you lose fluid, so it’s important to hydrate. Be extra careful when it’s hot and humid out.
5. Split It Up
Always on the go? Divvy up your workouts. For instance, throughout the day, three separate 10-minute sessions will be easier to accomplish.
6. Listen To Your Body
If something hurts or you feel dizzy, stop. Rest until you feel better. Pushing yourself too hard can be dangerous.
Getting into a routine takes time, so be patient with yourself. It’ll take time to see what works for you. If you’re taking hypertension drugs, check with your doctor first.
|↑1||High Blood Pressure. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.|
|↑2||Heart Disease Facts. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.|
|↑3||Measuring Blood Pressure. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.|
|↑4||Gielen, Stephan, Marcus Sandri, Sandra Erbs, and Volker Adams. “Exercise-induced modulation of endothelial nitric oxide production.” Current pharmaceutical biotechnology 12, no. 9 (2011): 1375-1384.|
|↑5||Risk Factors for High Blood Pressure. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.|
|↑6||Finding a Balance. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.|
|↑7||Managing Stress to Control High Blood Pressure. American Heart Association.|