Must-know facts about lowering your blood pressure with exercise

If your doctor has recently told you that your blood pressure is too high, they may well have included regular, gentle exercise as part of their advice to you to help bring it down. Exercise can help to strengthen your cardiovascular system, improve your blood pressure control and help you to lose any excess weight.

The best forms of exercise

The most effective type of exercise is generally light, prolonged aerobic exercises maintained at a moderate level to prevent blood pressure from becoming too high during your work-out.

Activities such as brisk walking, light cycling and swimming, gardening and active housework can be very effective at helping to reduce your blood pressure. They can also help provide a wide range of other health benefits, which include good weight control, improved energy, mood and concentration as well as a reduced risk of stroke and type 2 diabetes, and certain cancers.

At the same time, however, you should avoid lifting heavy weights in the gym, sprinting or sports such as squash, as these may put your heart under undue stress, which may raise your blood pressure too much.

How to exercise more often on a daily basis

Adults should generally be active for thirty minutes a day five times a week, but modern life has made it difficult for some people to find time for exercise in their busy schedules. However, being active doesn't just mean hitting the gym, and you can break that 30-minute requirement down into smaller chunks too. By making just a few small changes to your lifestyle, you can easily build that 30-minute period into your daily routine.

Sometimes adding more exercise to your routine is as much about changing how you think, as well as what you do. If you see exercise as being a chore, the chances are you are doing the wrong type of exercise. Instead, you should find something you enjoy. Speak to your family and friends about exercising together, or even just invite a friend on a wander with the dog.

Adding more walking to your day will help you naturally get the exercise you need without even trying, so try to walk wherever you can. Leave the car at home when you go to the shops, or get off the bus a stop or two early on the journey to work. Try to avoid using escalators and lifts and take the stairs instead, and make lunches at your desk a thing of the past. A lunchtime walk will both help with your exercise regime and can help with lowering your stress level, too.

The immediate benefits of regular exercise

While you may want to become more physically active for the longer-term health benefits, it's the immediate improvements in wellbeing that will keep you motivated on a daily basis.

Relax, revitalise and energise: physical activity reduces mental and muscular tension whilst at the same time increasing concentration and energy levels. Everyday tasks - whether it's getting up off the couch or mowing the lawn - all get easier.

De-stress: physical activity provides a complete break and distraction from the anxieties and stresses of the day leaving you re-charged and ready to start again afresh.

Feel good about yourself: physical activity - and being physically fit - can really enhance your self-esteem, self-confidence and sense of achievement.

"If exercise could be purchased in a pill, it would be the most widely prescribed and beneficial medicine in the nation" Dr. Robert H. Butler MD Founding Director of the National Institute on Ageing