8 years ago, I took to heart advice from my doctor to start exercising as a way to fix hypertension. Here is how I brought my blood pressure to 120/80 in less than a year and you can too
It is common knowledge that high blood pressure increases the risk of CVD (cardiovascular disease) and stroke. High blood pressure is medically known as hypertension. Key elements of treatment are exercise, healthy nutrition and stress management. These elements are also very important for weight management as excess weight is a major risk factor for high blood pressure and CVD. Please talk to your doctor before starting a new fitness program. How do you progress from knowing these facts to actually making use of exercising to lower blood pressure? Follow this 5-step plan. I
Step 1. Make Exercise Fun
Benefits of exercise can be achieved with moderate intensity workouts of just 30 minutes a day. Walking, riding a bike with the kids or doing housework are all exercises for lower blood pressure and a good start. I admit, I started exercising at the age of 48 not for fun reasons. My doctor really scared me. He said that unless I change my lifestyle and start exercising, I will soon develop a CVD. I started from very slow jogging for 20–30 min after work every day in a nearby park. I saw improvements in BP readings after two weeks and approximately at that time I actually started to enjoy this exercise to low blood pressure. These runs gave me an opportunity to calm down after work, reflect on my day and enjoy family dinners after that.
“I saw improvements in BP readings after two weeks and approximately at that time I actually started to enjoy this exercise.”
Step 2. Find a program or coach you trust
It doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to sign for a gym. However, the benefits of coaches can be added safety and encouragement. Your doctor can provide you with initial coaching advice to exercising to lower blood pressure . Alternatively, you may want download one of the fitness mobile apps or online fitness programs. Read reviews carefully to make sure that you are engaging with a trustworthy program. Your routine should be developed based on your underlying health and current capability. I was lucky as a friend introduced me to an experienced trainer 5 years older than me. He understood well specifics of working with mature clients with health challenges. Though my trainer was older than me, he was in great physical shape, which helped my motivation. Together we built a training plan which was challenging but at the same time helped me to avoid injuries and overtraining.
“Though my trainer was older than me, he was in great physical shape, which helped my motivation”.
Step 3: Start gradually
If you haven’t exercised in a while, start slowly with lowering blood pressure exercises to prevent injuries. Begin with 15–30 minutes of exercise which you really like, such as walking in nature. Gradually increase the duration and pace, i.e. move from walking to slow jogging. Most likely over few weeks you will observe that your blood pressure is getting lower. Sometimes moderate-level aerobic activities, such as brisk walking for 30 minutes a day, may be enough to decrease medications. Exercise itself can reduce blood pressure readings by as much as 5–15 mmHg. Update your doctor regularly on the progress you make with exercise for high blood pressure so she could adjust your medications accordingly.
“In less than 12 months after being diagnosed with hypertension my blood pressure returned to normal levels.”
I started exercising from slow jogging. As my blood pressure improved, I gradually started to run fastyer and longer. In less than 12 months after being diagnosed with hypertension my blood pressure returned to normal levels. After another 9 months, at the age of 50, I completed my first marathon.
Step 4: Combine Aerobic, Strength Exercise and Stretches
Aerobic exercise (running, cycling, swimming) causes the heart to beat faster and hence it is vital for lowering blood pressure. Resistance training (or weight training) is great for boosting metabolic rate, reducing body fat, and increasing muscle mass. This means they are also great exercises for lower blood pressure. As we age, our bodies naturally lose muscle mass and the only way to slow down this process is to do resistance training. See your doctor before starting a new resistance or weight lifting program. Stretching exercises are also critically important as they keep our joints in good shape and help prevent injuries while running, cycling or exercising with weights.
“Build in aerobic, strength and yoga for high blood pressure exercises in your weekly plan and enjoy faster progress to your health goals.
In my fifties I started to participate in triathlon races and realized that in order to compete more successfully I need to add weight training to my routine to preserve muscle mass. Over the last few years I added two 30min stretching yoga sessions per week to my routine as a way to increase flexibility of joints and stay injury free. If you are happy to take my word for it: do not wait for years to diversify your exercise routine. Build in aerobic, strength and yoga for high blood pressure exercises in your weekly plan and enjoy faster progress to your health goals.
Step 5: Make Exercise An Everyday Habit
Modify your routine to match your daily and weekly schedule. The science of psychology suggests that we have a higher chance of making an exercise a habit if it either precedes or follows an already established routine. If a morning run before working hours seems too challenging, try to run after work. This is exactly what I did, and it worked nicely!
Build some simple rules into your day, i.e. do a push-up every time when you pass a kitchen.