The risk of hypertension increases with age. Therefore, it is essential to take the necessary precautions to prevent and control high blood pressure. According to recent studies, exercise can have a major role in helping to control hypertension.
Jogger using wrist blood pressure monitor
A few minutes of physical activity every day can be very beneficial and it is not necessary to join a gym or start running marathons.
According to a study1 published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, one or more in every four UK adults experience high blood pressure, which is a major risk factor for having a stroke or heart attack. This can affect anyone, regardless of age, although it is more common among the elderly. This study showed that regular exercise can be as effective at controlling blood pressure as most of the medications available.
A different study2 investigated the levels of visceral fat, the fat that surrounds various internal organs and is not visible on the outside. High levels of visceral fat can be very damaging to health and can cause a number of health problems, including hypertension.
Although both medication and exercise can help to reduce the amount of visceral fat, this study showed that exercise was the most beneficial. Modification of diet is another effective way of reducing obesity and excess body fat.
As visceral fat is lost, the risk of hypertension decreases along with the risks of other illnesses associated with high levels of visceral fat.
Exercising to Reduce Blood Pressure
How often do you have to exercise in order to control blood pressure and reduce fat?
The ideal amount of exercise to reduce blood pressure is moderate activity, which can include brisk walking for 30 minutes for at least five days of the week. If 30 minutes of exercise is not possible, shorter, more vigorous exercise, such as jogging for 10 to 20 minutes for three to four days a week, is also beneficial.
After a period of extended inactivity, it is best to start slowly and increase the intensity and duration gradually. Below is an example of what should be done:
1. Begin by warming up the body. This should consist of approximately five to ten minutes of warm up exercises including stretching. These help the body prepare for the workout and reduce the risk of injuries.
2. Increase the intensity slowly and it is important not to overdo it. Whilst exercising, it is important to note that it should still be possible to talk. If it is possible to sing, the intensity can be increased.
3. The body should be given time to rest and cool down after exercise. It is important to avoid suddenly stopping the workout. Intensity should be decreased for the last few minutes until the heartbeat is restored to normal.
An increase in blood pressure can be associated with an inactive lifestyle. It is therefore important to incorporate regular workouts into daily activities. Regular activity will help to lower blood pressure and can be as effective as taking medication. It is best to consult a doctor to decide on an individualized fitness plan if there is any confusion.
NB: Consult a medical professional before starting an exercise routine if it has been a while since you’ve exercised or if you have any health issues or concerns.
1 Naci H, Salcher-Konrad M, Dias S, et al How does exercise treatment compare with antihypertensive medications? A network meta-analysis of 391 randomised controlled trials assessing exercise and medication effects on systolic blood pressure British Journal of Sports Medicine Published Online First: 18 December 2018. doi: 10.1136/bjsports-2018-099921
2 Effect of Exercise and Pharmacological Interventions on Visceral Adiposity: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis of Long-term Randomized Controlled Trials.
Rao, Shreya et al. Mayo Clinic Proceedings , Volume 94 , Issue 2 , 211 - 224
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