The risk of raised blood pressure increases the older we get, but staying active can help reduce that risk, and if blood pressure is already high, it can help reduce it. The good news is that you don’t need to run a marathon or become a gym-junkie. Just a slow and steady introduction of more exercise into your daily life can make a massive difference.
Exercise has the potential to lower blood pressure by an extent similar to many blood pressure medications.
If you have a healthy blood pressure (around 120/80 mm Hg or lower) exercise can help to ensure your blood pressure doesn’t climb as you get older. It will also help keep your weight down, which is important for controlling blood pressure too. However, if you want to keep your blood pressure down, you need to maintain your levels of exercise. It can take between one and three months for exercise to lower your blood pressure, and the benefits will only last for as long as you continue to exercise.
Getting enough exercise
While strengthening exercises are important for a healthy lifestyle, cardiovascular exercise is far more effective at lowering blood pressure and this can be achieved with just a few moderate activities added to your daily life. These can include climbing stairs more often, going for more walks, jogging, swimming or cycling. You can even get the extra exercise by mowing the lawn, scrubbing the floor or raking the garden.
Ideally you should be looking to get 150 minutes of moderate or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise each week. It is useful to aim for 30 minutes a day, but if you can’t find that time in single chunks, try three 10-minute chunks or two 15-minute chunks instead.
Taking a few precautions …
There are certain steps you should consider before you start exercising. Firstly, speak to your doctor if you have high blood pressure (unless it’s well controlled on medication) or are very overweight.
Remember – stay safe
Warm up before you take part in any exercise, and build up your intensity gradually. Stop exercising and seek help immediately if you experience any of the following:
• Pain in your arm or jaw
• An irregular heartbeat
• Severe shortness of breath
You should also ensure you check your blood pressure regularly. You can either do that at your doctor’s surgery, or by using a monitor at home.