As a cardiologist, I’ve always emphasized the importance of daily exercise because it benefits the entire cardiovascular system. Plus, if you want to lower your blood pressure, regular exercise can make a real difference in your blood pressure readings.
Exercise helps to lower blood pressure by…
- Lowering the levels of stress hormones in your bloodstream. Stress tends to constrict arteries and drive up blood pressure.
- Dilating and relaxing your blood vessels, promoting increased circulation.
- Helping you maintain a healthy weight. When you carry around excess weight, it taxes your heart causing it to work harder because it must pump blood through the fat that lines and narrows your blood vessels.
The good news is that exercise to lower blood pressure doesn’t have to be complicated, nor do you have to join a fancy gym. Here are the best exercises for getting your blood pressure in check.
Start with a Mild Cardiovascular Workout
The first exercise you want to do to reduce blood pressure is light to moderate cardiovascular exercise, such as walking or dancing. Regular exercise helps to reduce blood pressure by supporting the dilation of blood vessels, which assists the heart in effectively pumping blood more efficiently. This decreases the pressure on your arteries, which lowers blood pressure.
If your blood pressure is already in the normal range, exercise can help you can keep it from rising. To support healthy blood pressure, you want to exercise for at least 30 minutes a day.
For Greater Blood Pressure Benefits, Add Weight Training
If you’ve been walking, dancing, or doing some other aerobic exercise and made some heart-healthy gains but want to improve even more, try adding weight training to your routine.
In a 2010 study published in The Journal of Strength and Conditioning, researchers compared resistance training to aerobic exercise. What they found is that resistance exercises produced a longer-lasting decrease in blood pressure after exercise than aerobic exercise, as well as increased blood flow to the limbs.1
To maintain healthy blood pressure, I recommend beginning a weight-training program with 20-minute sessions two or three times a week, with a day off between sessions to give your muscles time to heal.
I do not advocate that you jump into a strenuous weight-training routine that “goes for the burn,” because this can increase the likelihood that you’ll get injured, cause sore muscles, and lessen your chances of sticking with a strength-training routine.
Here are a few simple weight-training tips to get your started:
- Always warm up with some light movement before you begin lifting weights, such as gently stretching your bands, or doing sit-ups or push-ups—all are all great ways to get you going.
- Use light hand or ankle weights (2 to 3 pounds for women, 5 to 10 pounds for men), or exercise “bands” that you stretch with your arms and legs.
- Work slowly and smoothly, exhaling as you lift the weights and inhaling as you lower them. A weight training “set” consists of 8 to 12 lifts, or repetitions.
- Be sure to exercise at a comfortable pace and rest between sets.
- Increase the number of sets gradually, and add more weight as you gain strength, but don’t push yourself to the limit.
More Exercises for Healthy Blood Pressure
If you can’t take a walk every day, or you don’t like dancing or weight lifting, try any of these other exercises for high blood pressure:
- Ride a stationary bike
- Do exercises that will help maintain muscle tone, flexibility, and balance, such as yoga, T’ai Chi, or Qigong
- Lift books over your head
The bottom line is that it doesn’t matter what type of exercise you do. What matters is that you keep moving and stick to a routine where you are exercising often enough to keep your body—and blood pressure—healthy.
Note: Always consult your doctor before beginning a new exercise routine.
More Heart Health Advice from Dr. Sinatra
1Epping, Janet. "Weight Training Has Unique Heart Benefits, Study Suggests." Medical News Today. MediLexicon, Intl., 11 Nov. 2010. Web. 17 Sep. 2018.