Exercise: A drug-free approach to lowering high blood pressure
HEALTH & WELLNESS
Your risk of high blood pressure (hypertension) increases with age, but getting some exercise can make a big difference. And if your blood pressure is already high, exercise can help you control it.
Don't think you've got to run a marathon or join a gym. Instead, start slow and work more physical activity into your daily routine.
How exercise can lower your 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. If your heart can work less to pump, the force on your arteries decreases, lowering your blood pressure.
Becoming more active can lower your systolic blood pressure — the top number in a blood pressure reading — by an average of 4 to 9 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg). That's as good as some blood pressure medications. For some people, getting some exercise is enough to reduce the need for blood pressure medication.
If your blood pressure is at a desirable level — less than 120/80 mm Hg — exercise can help keep it from rising as you age. Regular exercise also helps you maintain a healthy weight, another important way to control blood pressure.
But to keep your blood pressure low, you need to keep exercising. It takes about one to three months for regular exercise to have an impact on your blood pressure. The benefits last only as long as you continue to exercise.
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. And you don't need to spend hours in the gym every day to benefit. Simply adding moderate physical activities to your daily routine will help.
Any physical activity that increases your heart and breathing rates is considered aerobic exercise, including:
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