Reducing the pressure: The benefits of exercise for high blood pressure.

Has your Doctor mentioned the words high blood pressure? There is a good chance they have as it affects one in three people. 

If you would like more of an understanding on what high blood pressure is, how it can affect you and how we can help you prevent, manage or lower it then keep reading. 

Without getting too scientific your blood pressure is a measure and indication of how well blood is getting transported through your arteries, veins and blood vessels and how your circulatory system is functioning. When we measure our blood pressure we get two readings, our systolic blood pressure and our diastolic blood pressure. 

Systolic BP refers to how much pressure goes through the arteries as the heart is pumping oxygenated blood. Ideally, this reading should be around 120. 

Diastolic BP refers to the arterial pressure as the heart relaxes and fills with blood. The recommended value is approximately 80.

If your blood pressure is consistently above 140 for your systolic and 90 for your diastolic, this is considered to be high blood pressure. If high blood pressure is left untreated your heart can become enlarged and not work as effectively which is a LARGE risk factor for chronic conditions including stroke, coronary heart disease, heart failure and chronic kidney disease. 

There are many risk factors that may cause high blood pressure such as:
1. Diet 
2. Lack of exercise 
3. Smoking
4. Overweight 
5. Lifestyle and stress
6. Genetics 

These risk factors can then lead to poor physiological changes such as:

  • Arterial narrowing 
  • Arterial stiffening
  • Abnormal heart rhythms (weird beating)
  • Blood volume levels
  • Heart stroke volumes (the ‘size and strength’ of each heartbeat)

As you can see, many of these risk factors are areas that we can change to help prevent, manage and reduce our blood pressure.

Of course your doctor can give you medication which helps, but a few lifestyle changes are just as important and can be just as effective. Through a healthy diet, stopping smoking and engaging in a wonderful thing known as EXERCISE we can help regulate and lower your blood pressure. 

The way in which exercise helps is through improving the efficiency and function of our heart and circulatory system. If we think of these two components as one ‘big muscle’, when we exercise we can ‘strengthen’ and improve how well this muscle works. This allows us to effectively and efficiently pump blood around the body. Exercise also helps us to manage our weight, which in turn places less strain on this ‘big muscle’. 

In terms of what exercise is best, the recommendations are for long steady state cardiovascular exercise. This can include physical activity such as long walks, bike rides, swims and jogging. However, at the end of the day any form of exercise that is performed safely and within your capabilities is better than nothing.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends that everyone aim to meet the following exercise guidelines:

  • 150 min of moderate intensity exercise per week, OR 75min of vigorous intensity exercise per week, with aerobic exercise done in at least 10min bouts
  • 2 x full body muscle strengthening activities per week (weight training)

Remember that these are general guidelines for most people to aim for good health. This doesn’t mean to jump straight to that amount of exercise, especially if you never have exercised before or for a long time or have significant health issues such as high blood pressure.

If you would like to help manage or prevent high blood pressure and feel like you need some assistance with safe and appropriate exercise then call us today on 8682 6665. We are fortunate enough to have two Exercise Physiologists who are trained in assisting people with high blood pressure!

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