Exercising Your Way to Lowering Blood Pressure

  • Regular aerobic exercise can reduce blood pressure by an average of 5 to 7 mmHg among adults with hypertension.
  • An accumulation of 30 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic exercise over the course of the day can lower blood pressure.
  • A single aerobic exercise bout can improve blood pressure and can last up to 22 hours.

Donna Cataldo, Ph.D. - ACSM's Consumer Information Committee - Anthony Figueroa, Brianne Robinson, Ryan Sandstrom

What is hypertension?

Hypertension or high blood pressure (HBP), as defined by the American Heart Association, is when the force of your blood pushing against the walls of your blood vessels is consistently too high. There are two types of hypertension: primary (essential) and secondary hypertension. Primary hypertension accounts for 90% to 95% of adults with hypertension and is often linked to genetics, physical inactivity, poor diet and obesity. Secondary hypertension is present in 5% to 10% of the adult population and is associated with a known disease. These may include conditions that impact your kidneys, arteries, heart and/or endocrine system. Although the cause of high blood pressure continues to be researched, factors commonly associated with HBP include family history and lifestyle factors such as smoking, poor diet, and physical inactivity. These behaviors increase an individual’s risk for developing high blood pressure. As such, it is important to regularly check your blood pressure, as hypertension generally does not show symptoms. Therefore, blood pressure is commonly called “The silent killer.”

Why is hypertension a silent killer?

Hypertension causes the pressure in your arteries to be consistently elevated above what is required to circulate blood. This puts a strain on both the blood vessels and the heart which can cause them both to weaken and work less efficiently over time. This continuous pressure on the vessel walls causes harm to the delicate tissue covering the arteries. In the presence of “bad” or low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, plaque forms within these areas of injury and so begins atherosclerosis. Hypertension may also lead to heart failure. This is a condition that may occur over several years and is associated with the inability to supply enough blood to your body. The narrowing of the arteries associated with HBP causes the heart to have to work even harder. The heart muscles adapt by becoming thicker and the heart becomes larger; these two adaptations make the heart less efficient.

How can exercise help with hypertension?

Blood pressure naturally increases while exercising. Generally, this increase is not associated with negative health outcomes. On the other hand, systolic and diastolic blood pressure can be expected to drop an average of 5 to 7 mmHg among adults with hypertension with regular aerobic exercise. These reductions may be even greater among those with even higher baseline starting blood pressure. These changes occur immediately and can last for up to 22 hours. Over time, these acute changes turn into long- term or chronic changes. Even modest reductions in blood pressure for those with severe hypertension can provide substantial benefits.

How often should we exercise?

How much exercise is needed to see improvements in blood pressure? Truth is, benefits can be achieved after a single bout! Exercise provides a positive stress in the arteries which stimulates the cells to release nitric oxide. This molecule helps dilation (widening of the arteries), which can remain in effect for up to 24 hours after the bout is completed. The new American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) guidelines recommend moderate-intensity aerobic training 5 to 7 days per week.

How hard should we push ourselves?

Exercise, regardless of the type, is beneficial for health when it is centered around reductions in blood pressure. However, the greatest reductions in blood pressure have been associated with aerobic exercise (jogging, walking, cycling, swimming).

While aerobic exercise may seem easy to do, there are movements, such as pedaling, which can be difficult for some categories of people, for example the elderly.
Therefore, in some situations it could be important to use fitness equipment that is easy to use and suitable for everyone, such as Technogym Cycle, the most innovative and effective Technogym solution for aerobic exercise that combines functionality, ease of use and ultimate design: getting on and off has never been so easy thanks to the completely free walk-through.
The seat is the widest and most comfortable ever, yet the bike has a minimal footprint - less than 1 square meter of surface and 60 cm wide - making it ideal for any home environment.
Technogym Cycle is stableresistant and designed to accommodate users of all ages, levels and weight, while the differentiated density saddle offers maximum comfort and can be adjusted during exercise, without having to get off. With two grips - Standard and City Bike - and Fast Track Controls providing resistance positioned on the handlebars, you can vary training positions and intensity with the greatest of ease.
Essential data is always the focus. Place your tablet on Technogym Cycle to access an incredible variety of personalized workouts on the screen. Choose from: Technogym Sessions featuring trainer-led programs and virtual workouts with outdoor scenarios in nature or in the world's most beautiful cities; training Routines dedicated to specific goals; or Custom Workouts, which range from classic goal-based workouts - time, distance, calories - to more advanced programs like High Intensity and Interval Training.

Discover Technogym Cycle

Even light to moderate regular exercise can improve blood pressure. Moderate-intensity exercise is defined by exercising at 40% to 59% heart rate reserve. If available, a heart rate monitor can assist an individual in assessing their exercise intensity. There are a handful of specialized formulas to estimate your maximum heart rate if you do not know your own. One valid equation used to predict HRmax and was tested on a wide range of ages and health conditions is Gellish et al: 207 - (0.7 and age). Once you have calculated your predicted maximum heart rate you can determine the desired exercise intensity.

In the absence of a heart rate monitor, or if the individual is taking a beta-blocker, another valid and commonly used tool to assess intensity is the Rating of Perceived Exertion (RPE). An RPE between 12-13 is the desired range to maintain moderate-intensity exercise and should feel somewhat hard; vigorous activity on the scale is between 14-16 and should feel hard.

How long should we be exercising aerobically?

The latest ACSM Frequency, Intensity, Time and Type (FITT) recommendations for individuals with hypertension encourage individuals to exercise on most and preferably every day of the week with an accumulation of 90 minutes to 150 minutes per week.  For maximum health benefits, ACSM recommends continuous or accumulated activity of 30 minutes per day of moderate-intensity (RPE of 12-13) or 20 minutes a day of vigorous- intensity (RPE 14-16). These exercise bouts do not have to be performed in a single session. You can complete 10 minutes in the morning, 10 minutes in the afternoon, and 10 minutes in the evening and still reap the benefits of exercise for lowering blood pressure. This is an excellent strategy for fitting exercise into our constantly busy, everyday lives.

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