Exercise and Blood Pressure

If you have been diagnosed with high blood pressure, or are taking high blood pressure medications, then exercise is a great way to reduce your blood pressure in both the short and long terms. High blood pressure is a risk factor for developing heart disease, Type 2 Diabetes, stroke and kidney failure. It is important not to forget that because you may not necessarily experience any symptoms, or feel pain when diagnosed with high blood pressure, that it should not be overlooked.

High blood pressure is likely to develop in people who are sedentary or overweight. As an indication, greater than 24% body weight for men and greater than 30% body fat for women are the ranges in focus for this article. Other risk indicators are having an excess sodium intake of greater than 2.4 grams per day; greater than 2 standard alcoholic drinks for men, and greater than 1 standard drink for women. Once high blood pressure has been diagnosed, your GP will aim to improve the modifiable risk factors via exercise and nutrition. Many people have a family history of high blood pressure, so it is extremely important to address the factors that can be controlled. Exercise reduces blood pressure by allowing the blood vessels to relax, facilitating increased blood flow. This results in reduced resistance as blood travels to the working muscles throughout your body. This effect can be continued to be seen for the rest of the day.


The recommended guidelines for managing high blood pressure include moderate to vigorous aerobic exercise 5 days per week in conjunction with 2 resistance exercise sessions per week. Resistance training needs to be performed slowly, use whole body movements and controlled breathing to achieve a reduction in blood pressure. Studies have been conducted which show that both continuous aerobic training and higher intensity interval training both have positive effects on a reduction in blood pressure, whether or not you have high blood pressure.

Continuous aerobic training generally involves exercise that can be maintained for a longer period of time such 30 minutes or more of walking, cycling, or swimming in which the heart rate does not increase as much as during higher intensity interval training. The effects of a single 60 minute session each week for 4 months have shown a reduction in blood pressure compared to groups who did not exercise.

High intensity interval training has also been shown to have a positive effect on reducing blood pressure after exercise and involves a short, sharp burst of aerobic exercise e.g. walking up stairs, hill or sprinting on a bike for 15-30 seconds with a recovery in between at a lower intensity which is then repeated numerous times for a 10-20 minute duration.

If you are interested in learning more about blood pressure and how exercise can benefit it, please talk to an Optimum Exercise Physiologist who will show you how to manage your blood pressure.

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