We all know exercise is good for
us. It helps you gain better control over your weight, keeps your cholesterol
in check, gives you strong bones and muscles, provides stress relief and improves our mood to name a few.
Another positive benefit of regular
exercise is lower blood pressure. Studies show that having high blood pressure
and not getting enough exercise are closely related.
Also, as you age, your risk of high
blood pressure increases.
However, if you can find time to
fit exercise into your life, it will make a big difference in keeping your
blood pressure in check.
If your blood pressure is already
high, exercise can help you lower it. You don’t have to run a marathon to see
the benefits, simply start slowly and work more physical activity (20 to 30
minutes of aerobic exercise) into your daily routine.
The way in which exercise can
reduce blood pressure is very simple. Regular physical activity makes your
heart stronger. A stronger heart can pump more blood with less effort. If your
heart can work less to pump, the force on your arteries decreases, lowering
your blood pressure.
Becoming more active can lower your
systolic blood pressure- the top number in a blood pressure reading – by an
average of 5 to 10 mmHg of mercury. That’s as good as some blood pressure
For some people, simply getting
some exercise is enough to reduce the need for blood pressure medication.
If your blood pressure is at the
desirable level of 120/80 or less, exercise can keep it from rising as you age.
Regular exercise also helps you maintain a healthy weight, which is another
important way to control blood pressure.
If you start exercising and
decrease your blood pressure, you need to keep it up in order to maintain your
new lower reading. It takes about one to
three months for regular exercise to have an impact on your blood pressure and
the benefits last only as long as you continue to exercise. What a great reason
to make physical activity part of your life!
In general, to achieve the maximum
benefits of exercise, you should gradually work up to an aerobic session
lasting 30 minutes most days of the week. If you can’t set aside that much time
at once, remember that shorter bursts of activity count too. Try taking the
stairs instead of the elevator or taking a walk during your lunch break.
Flexibility and strengthening
exercises such as lifting weights are an important part of an overall fitness
plan, but it takes aerobic activity to control high blood pressure.
Any physical activity that
increases your heart and breathing rates is considered aerobic. Mowing the
lawn, raking leaves or scrubbing the floor counts – as long as it takes effort.
Other common forms of aerobic activity include climbing stairs, walking,
jogging, bicycling and swimming.
Along with helping to lower your
blood pressure, other great benefits of participating in a regular exercise
programme include: strengthening the heart and cardiovascular system; improving
circulation and helping the body use oxygen better; improving heart failure
symptoms; increasing endurance and improving muscle tone and strength.
It also improves balance and joint
flexibility; strengthens bones; reduces body fat and helps you reach a healthy
weight; helps reduce stress, tension, anxiety and depression; boosts self-
image and self-esteem; improves sleep; makes you feel relaxed and rested and makes
you look fit and feel healthy.
There are so many great reasons to
exercise – so get moving!
Deanna Smith is an exercise physiologist and Pilates instructor at
ENERGY. She can be contacted at: [email protected] or 946 6006.