Low-Pressure Workouts for Hypertension
Alfred A. Bove, MD, with Carl Sherman
Series Editor: Nicholas A. DiNubile, MD
THE PHYSICIAN AND SPORTSMEDICINE - VOL 26 - NO. 4 - APRIL 2021
Regular exercise is a central part of your program for controlling hypertension (high blood pressure). For most people who have hypertension, a few sessions of moderate physical activity each week will reduce blood pressure significantly and lower the risk of stroke and heart attack. If your blood pressure is just mildly elevated, exercise (along with a healthy diet and lifestyle) may be enough to bring it down to normal. If you need medication, exercise probably will make it more effective, and possibly allow you to take a lower dose.
The best type of exercise for lowering blood pressure is aerobic activity that makes you breathe faster and gets your heart rate up. This can be brisk walking, jogging, swimming, or working out with machines like a treadmill or cross-country ski simulator. Choose one or more activities that will be convenient and enjoyable to do regularly.
For maximum benefit:
Your doctor may also suggest a weekly session of resistance exercise to increase your overall fitness and strengthen your upper body. This may mean using light weights (like dumbbells) or doing a series of exercises with Nautilus- or Cybex-type machines.
Moderate exercise poses very little risk for most people who have high blood pressure. If you are at high risk for heart disease (for example, if you have high cholesterol, are overweight, or have a family history of early heart attack), your doctor may recommend a stress test—monitoring your heart while you exercise under supervision—to find the level of exercise best for you.
To stay on the safe side, stop exercising and consult your doctor if you experience any of the following:
Make It Fun
Enjoy yourself. Make it easier to exercise consistently by choosing activities you enjoy in an environment you find pleasing (like a health club, outdoors, or while listening to music). Build regular sessions into your schedule. Exercise with friends and make it a social occasion.
Remember: This information is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. Before starting an exercise program, consult a physician.
Dr Bove is chief of the cardiology section at the Temple University School of Medicine in Philadelphia. Mr Sherman is a freelance writer in New York City. Dr DiNubile is an orthopedic surgeon in private practice in Havertown, Pennsylvania, director of Sports Medicine and Wellness at the Crozer-Keystone Healthplex in Springfield, Pennsylvania, and a member of the editorial board of The Physician and Sportsmedicine.
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