Exercise can play an important role in treating high levels of blood pressure (hypertension). If you successfully control your blood pressure with a healthy lifestyle, you might avoid, delay, or reduce the need for medication.
Studies have shown that exercise is beneficial both in preventing high blood pressure, and in preventing complications in people suffering from hypertension.
How exercise can lower your blood pressure
Regular physical activity strengthens your heart. A stronger heart can pump more blood with less effort, reducing the force on your arteries, and lowering your blood pressure. Regular exercise also helps maintain a healthy weight, another good way of lowering your blood pressure.
The American College of Sports Medicine recommends that people with hypertension engage in moderate aerobic exercise five to seven days a week, supplemented with resistance and/or flexibility exercise two to three days a week.
If you have high blood pressure, regular aerobic exercise for about 30 minutes most days of the week can lower your blood pressure by around 5 to 8 mmHg. This reduction in blood pressure also reduces risk of cardiovascular disease by 20-30%.
You don’t need to spend hours in the gym to get your daily exercise. Aerobic exercise is any physical activity that increases your heart and breathing rate, including:
- household chores like mowing the lawn, scrubbing floors, or washing windows
- climbing stairs
- brisk walking
It is recommended to add resistance training into your exercise regime at least two days a week. Resistance training (or weight training) strengthens the muscles and bones. When performing resistance exercises remember to involve the major muscle groups (legs, chest, abdomen, arms). To avoid injury, build up your exercise plan slowly.
Consult your primary care practitioner before starting any major increase in physical activity, and in particular before starting resistance training, and follow their recommendations.
- Pescatello LS, MacDonald HV, Ash GI, et al. Assessing the existing professional exercise recommendations for hypertension: a review and recommendations for future research priorities. Mayo Clin Proc. 2015;90(6):801–12.
- Physical Activity Guidelines Advisory Committee. Physical Activity Guidelines Advisory Committee Scientific Report, 2018. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; 2018.