Fit to Fly
One in three American adults has high blood pressure with that number growing each year. The risk of high blood pressure (hypertension) increases with age, but being physically active is one of the most important steps you can take to prevent or control high blood pressure.
How are high blood pressure and exercise connected? Regular physical activity makes your heart stronger. A stronger heart can pump more blood with less effort thus lowering your blood pressure. Becoming more active can lower systolic blood pressure and for some people, getting exercise is enough to reduce the need for blood pressure medication altogether. If your blood pressure is currently at a desirable level (less than 120/80 mm Hg) exercise can keep it from rising as you age.
It takes about one to three months for regular exercise to have an impact on your blood pressure so stay patient! Remember, you’re making a lifestyle change and that doesn’t happen overnight. Both your brain and body need to understand what you’re asking of it then agree to do it. And don’t forget, you will need to continue exercising to keep your blood pressure low.
How much exercise do you need?
Flexibility and strengthening exercises such as lifting weights are an important part of an overall fitness plan, but it takes aerobic activity to control high blood pressure. You don't need to spend hours in the gym every day to benefit either. Simply add moderate physical activities to your daily routine to reap the benefits.
Any physical activity that increases your heart and breathing rates is considered aerobic exercise. Here are some easy ones that you can build into your day:
- Park further away from work, the grocery store and the gym
- Take the stairs rather than the elevator
- Take a walk with a friend, family member or your favorite pet
- Live close to work? Ride your bike instead of driving
Aim for at least 30 minutes of aerobic activity most days of the week. If you are not able to get all 30 minutes done at once, you can break it up into three 10-minute sessions and get the same benefits.
Remember to always consult your doctor before beginning any diet and exercise program.
November 3, 2010