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Getting Active: A Path to Controlling High Blood Pressure

CEO Tinh Phung
Image: Seniors running outdoors Physical activity is not just about staying fit, it can also play a vital role in managing high blood pressure. Engaging in regular exercise not only helps control hypertension but also...

seniors running outdoors
Image: Seniors running outdoors

Physical activity is not just about staying fit, it can also play a vital role in managing high blood pressure. Engaging in regular exercise not only helps control hypertension but also aids in weight management, strengthens the heart, and reduces stress levels. It is a holistic approach to overall well-being, with numerous benefits for your blood pressure.

Taking Charge of Your Activity Level

In today's culture, exercise may not come effortlessly. However, making the conscious decision to prioritize fitness can be one of the best choices you make for your health. Even moderately intense physical activity, such as brisk walking, can be highly beneficial when done consistently.

The Dangers of Being Inactive

Being physically inactive significantly increases the risk of health problems like heart attacks and strokes. Conversely, regular physical activity can lower blood pressure, aid in weight control, and reduce stress levels. If you want to improve your heart, lung, and circulatory health, aim for at least 150 minutes (two hours and 30 minutes) of moderate-intensity physical activity per week. This can be achieved by breaking it down into manageable sessions, such as 30 minutes a day for at least five days a week, or shorter sessions spread throughout the week. Incorporating flexibility and stretching exercises, as well as muscle-strengthening activities at least twice a week, further enhances the benefits.

Find Time and Energy to Be Active

When it comes to physical activity, the key is to get moving. Discover activities that you enjoy and savor the benefits as you gradually increase your activity level. Whether it's walking or cycling in nature, or enjoying audiobooks while using an elliptical machine, find something that suits your preferences and lifestyle.

Brisk walking, hiking, or stair-climbing
Image: Brisk walking, hiking, or stair-climbing

Mix It Up! Embrace Variety in Your Workout

Adding variety to your exercise routine not only keeps it interesting but also helps you stay motivated. Including strength and flexibility goals, such as weightlifting, resistance band exercises, yoga, and stretching, reduces the risk of injury and enables you to maintain a good level of heart-healthy fitness for years to come.

Understanding Moderation for You

When starting an exercise program, it's crucial to avoid overexertion or injury. Focus on activities that elevate your heart rate to a moderate level. If you can easily carry on a conversation or sing while exercising, you may not be working hard enough. On the other hand, feeling breathless or struggling to form short sentences indicates that you might be pushing yourself too hard. Finding the right balance is key to reaping the benefits without overexerting yourself.

Make It Social and Reward Yourself

Walking with a neighbor, friend, or spouse can make physical activity more enjoyable and keep you motivated. Consider participating in exercise challenges or connecting with fitness groups to create a support system that encourages you to walk more. Reward yourself for your efforts. Set aside a small amount of money for every workout and treat yourself to something that supports your goals, like new music or workout apparel. Celebrate your milestones and find ways to savor your successes, such as writing yourself congratulatory notes or indulging in a massage.

Warm Up, Cool Down, and Breathe

Warming up before exercise and cooling down afterward are essential for a smooth transition for your heart and muscles. Ensure that you gradually increase your heart rate and breathing during warmup sessions, and allow for a proper cooldown to avoid a sharp drop in blood pressure. Adding relaxing yoga poses to your routine can also enhance flexibility. Remember to maintain regular, deep breathing throughout your workout to avoid raising blood pressure or experiencing muscle cramps.

Consult Your Health Care Professional

Healthy adults generally do not need to consult a health care professional before starting a physical activity routine. However, if you have chronic conditions or are pregnant, it is advisable to seek advice from your doctor to determine any limitations or precautions you should take.

Monitoring Your Heart Rate

To calculate your target training heart rate, you first need to know your resting heart rate—the number of times your heart beats per minute at rest. Measure your pulse in the morning after a good night's sleep and before getting out of bed for the most accurate reading. Typically, an adult's resting heart rate is between 60 and 100 beats per minute, with physically fit individuals generally having a lower resting heart rate. As you exercise, periodically measure your pulse and aim to stay within 50 to 85 percent of your maximum heart rate, known as your target heart rate.

Remember, Pacing Is Key

When starting an exercise program, it's important to pace yourself properly. Begin by exercising at the lower end of your target heart rate zone (around 50 percent) for the first few weeks. Gradually increase the intensity to reach the upper end of your target heart rate zone (around 85 percent). After six months or more of regular exercise, you may be able to comfortably exercise at up to 85 percent of your maximum heart rate. However, remember that staying in shape doesn't require extreme exertion.

Utilize Fitness Trackers and Health Apps

Fitness trackers and health apps can be valuable tools for setting specific goals, tracking your progress, and providing motivation. They offer a visual representation of your achievements, making it easier to stay focused and motivated.

Considerations for Hot Tubs and Saunas

If you have high blood pressure, you should be able to tolerate hot tubs and saunas as long as your blood pressure is under control. Heat from these sources causes blood vessels to dilate, similar to the vasodilation that occurs during moderate exercise. However, if your doctor has advised against moderate exercise, be cautious when using hot tubs and saunas. It's also important to avoid rapidly transitioning between hot and cold water, as this can increase blood pressure. Furthermore, it is not advisable to consume alcohol and use a sauna simultaneously.

Remember, adopting an active lifestyle can greatly contribute to managing high blood pressure and improving overall health. Embrace physical activity as a lifelong commitment and enjoy the journey towards a healthier you.