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High Blood Pressure  - How Can Exercise Help?

High Blood Pressure - How Can Exercise Help?

High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, affects about a third of adults and can be a major cause of strokes and heart disease. It's important, therefore, to understand what are the main causes of high blood pressure, who is at most risk and how you can reduce your blood pressure and improve your health through healthy eating and exercise.

Common factors that can lead to high blood pressure:

• A diet high in salt, fat, and saturated fats.
• Chronic conditions such as kidney disease, an underactive thyroid,diabetes or an inherited tendency towards high cholesterol.
• A lack of physical activity.
• Increasing age.
• Obesity.
• Your ethnicity.
• Some birth control medicines.
• Stress.
• Smoking or drinking too much alcohol.

If you are being treated for high blood pressure, your doctor should discuss with you how a healthy diet and regular exercise can help to lower your blood pressure, and they should offer you information sheets and booklets about how to achieve this.

Regular physical activity (at least 30 minutes on most days of the week) has been shown to lower your blood pressure considerably. It is important to be consistent, because if you stop exercising, your blood pressure can rise again. If you have slightly high blood pressure (prehypertension), regular exercise has been shown to help you avoid developing full-blown hypertension.

What exercise is usually recommended?

It is recommended that you do 20–60 minutes of low to moderate intensity cardiovascular exercise three to five times a week.

What exercise style is best?

Aerobic Activity

Your workout routine should consist of 30 minutes of aerobic activity on most days of the week. If you have limited time to exercise, break workouts into shorter 10 to 15 minute intervals. Brisk walking, cycling, jogging, swimming and stair climbing can all be performed as part of your workout routine.

Strength Training

Strength training on three days a week helps lower your blood pressure over time. Since lifting causes a temporary increase in blood pressure, keep weight loads modest. Control your breathing throughout the movement and stop if you feel dizzy or light-headed. Use resistance exercise machines, such as bicep curls, ab exercisers, leg presses and chest presses to work your upper body, lower body and core. Start off with one to two sets of 10 to 12 repetitions for each machine.

Lastly, cool down.

When you've finished exercising, don't just stop suddenly. Slow down for a few minutes first. This is especially important if you have high blood pressure.

How can I measure the impact of my lifestyle changes?

Home monitoring can help you keep tabs on your blood pressure, make sure your lifestyle changes are working and alert you and your doctor to potential health complications. Blood pressure monitors are available widely without a prescription. Talk to your doctor about home monitoring before you get started. Of course, alongside this monitoring, regular consultations with your doctor are also key to controlling your blood pressure.

Before starting any new exercise programme, make sure you speak to your doctor and a fitness professional. When starting out at a gym, 1-1 personal training is a great investment, to ensure that you receive a programme tailored to suit you, and that you learn how to use all of the gym equipment safely and effectively.

This blog was contributed by Andy Biseker - Fitness Manager at Fitness4Less in Northampton.

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