Have you recently been told you have high blood pressure or hypertension? Are you sick of taking medications every day to help manage your high blood pressure? Are you concerned about your high blood pressure putting you at an increased risk of cardiovascular diseases like heart attacks and stroke? Then it might be time for you to get moving!
What is hypertension?
Hypertension or high blood pressure occurs when the pressure of your blood against the walls of your blood vessels is too high for a prolonged period of time. This pressure is created when your heart beats and is the result of two forces. The first force is your systolic pressure which happens when blood is pumped out of the heart to the rest of the body. The second force is your diastolic pressure, and this occurs when the heart rests between two beats.
One of the main reasons that high blood pressure can cause harm is that the constant increase in workload and pressure makes the heart and blood vessels work harder and less efficiently. This can eventually cause damage to the internal tissues, tiny tears in the artery walls, and plaque entering these tears and causing narrowed blood vessels, which further increases your blood pressure.
How does exercise help?
I’m sure that we are all aware that movement in any form is good for our bodies, but the question is how is it helping our blood pressure specifically?
There is a lot of research supporting the benefits of exercise and evidence proving that regular physical activity and moderate levels of cardiovascular fitness protect against the development of hypertension and all cause mortality. Regular aerobic exercise has been proven to decrease daytime blood pressure readings of both the systolic and diastolic values.
This decrease occurs because the heart is a muscle and when we exercise this muscle is worked and becomes stronger as a result. When the heart is stronger it is able to pump more blood around the body with less effort, which as a direct result lowers the pressure that is being put on your arteries with every pump.
How much exercise should I do?
The National Heart Foundation of Australia provides recommendations around physical activity to help manage a healthy blood pressure. We should be engaging 150-300 minutes of moderate intensity activity or 75-150 minutes of vigorous intensity exercise each week. Individuals should also be completing muscle strengthening activities on at least 2 days of the week. Initially this may sound like a lot but it’s as simple as a 30-minute walk 5 days per week and lifting something heavy two days a week. Or if you’d rather smash it out in fewer days, try a 45-60-minute walk 3 days a week and lifting something heavy for 2 days.
Before you get started..
By Aleisha Michael
Accredited Exercise Physiologist