Many people exercise to pursue unique performance goals, like preparing for a marathon or setting a personal best in the squat. But routine exercise is also one of the best methods to improve overall health parameters, like decreasing your blood glucose levels, increasing your bone density, and especially regulating your blood pressure.
Easy Exercises to Lower Blood Pressure
Read on to learn about three easy exercises that will lower your blood pressure and improve your overall health.
The Dangers of High Blood Pressure
High blood pressure, or hypertension, is a disease that develops when the blood in your arteries is consistently pumping at very high pressure, resulting in your heart and blood vessels “working overtime” with every pump.
For adults, a normal blood pressure level is considered to be less than 120 over 80 mm Hg (systolic over diastolic pressure); consistent readings above this level are cause for concern.
With many people leading increasingly sedentary lifestyles, high blood pressure is becoming an increasingly common disease. Some estimates suggest that as much as half of the adult American population has high blood pressure. To make matters worse, only a fraction of that population knows that they have the disease.
Outside of routine physicals at the doctor’s office, many people often go years without getting their blood pressure tested. High blood pressure also rarely presents with obvious symptoms until it has already caused other serious health problems. Taken together, these factors have earned high blood pressure the nickname “The Silent Killer.”
If left unchecked, high blood pressure can lead to a number of debilitating conditions, such as heart attack, stroke, heart failure, kidney failure, sexual dysfunction, and even vision loss.
Considering the dangers, utilizing these three easy exercises to lower blood pressure can be seen as an insurance policy on your overall health.
Why Does Exercise Lower Blood Pressure?
Before we get to the exercises themselves, you might be asking “how can exercise lower blood pressure in the first place?”
The first reason is very straightforward: your heart is a muscle, and the more you train a muscle, the more resilient it becomes to stressors. Regardless of the exercise, we choose to do, we create an increased demand for oxygen and nutrition to be delivered to the muscles being trained at the time. Your heart is responsible for delivering those to your working muscles via your circulatory system.
When you exercise consistently, you’re training your heart to pump stronger and more efficiently, which directly reduces blood pressure by taking stress off your circulatory system.
Even a single bout of aerobic exercise can acutely improve your blood pressure.
The second reason is indirect: regular exercise contributes to fat loss, which is strongly correlated with a reduction in blood pressure. Depending on the type of training you do, you can drastically increase your metabolic rate over time, which will greatly benefit your body composition by allowing you to lose fat.
Exercise also alleviates stress and can help reduce emotional distress, which can go a long way in maintaining your blood pressure levels in a normal range.
Now that we know how exercise works its magic, what are three easy exercises to lower blood pressure?
Walk it Out
Physical exercise doesn’t necessarily have to be intense all the time. In fact, a recent large-scale review concluded that walking at a “moderate” intensity for an average of about 150 minutes per week reduced systolic blood pressure by about 4 mm Hg across all age groups.
Since the review was a meta-analysis (a “study of studies”), there was no single prescription for what “moderate-intensity” was. However, it’s safe to assume that walking at a brisk pace (roughly 4.5 miles per hour) should do the trick, so long as it’s an effortful pace and creates a noticeable increase in heart rate.
Ride the Tide
Swimming is an easy exercise to lower blood pressure because it’s a joint-friendly alternative to land-based exercise. The impact on your joints and connective tissues is far less underwater than it is when you’re subjected to the full force of gravity.
Many different populations, such as the elderly, people with injuries, or the obese, may find swimming or water-based cardio to be more palatable.
Luckily, swimming has also been shown to have a significant impact on your blood pressure. A 10-week swimming program reduced resting heart rate by about 10 beats per minute and systolic blood pressure by an average of 6 mm Hg in a group of participants who were already hypertensive.
The reduction in resting heart rate was a sign of increased cardiac efficiency, and it’s interesting to note that these benefits to blood pressure were seen without any significant reduction in body mass for the test subjects. This means that swimming on its own contributed directly to a reduction in blood pressure.
It stands to reason that a swimming program in conjunction with a diet targeted for weight loss would create an additive positive effect on blood pressure.
Pump Some Iron
Weight training isn’t a single exercise, so bear with me on this one. But it would be a mistake to overlook a well-constructed weight training routine as a viable tool to decrease your blood pressure.
As a recent ACSM Report stated, “Resistance Training is Medicine.” It confers similar cardiovascular and mental health benefits as endurance/aerobic exercise, but also has many unique advantages that can’t be found with other training methods.
For example, resistance training is a powerful tool to stop age-related sarcopenia and bone loss has unique and chronic benefits on your metabolism and can help correct symptoms of diabetes.
As we learned above, fat mass is strongly correlated with blood pressure: the more fat you have, the higher your blood pressure. Gaining and maintaining muscle mass via resistance training will allow your metabolism to operate at a much higher rate, which will go a long way in staving off undesirable weight gain and keeping high blood pressure at bay.
So when it comes to finding easy exercises to lower blood pressure, don’t discount spending some quality time in the squat rack!