Hypertension Controlling Exercise

Exercise for hypertension can effectively reduce high blood pressure levels, especially when combined with weight loss and a healthy diet. Many people find starting a hypertension exercise program intimidating. Some may worry about the effect of combined hypertension and exercise on their hearts. Others may have led sedentary lifestyles prior to their hypertension diagnosis and are wary of sudden change.

Fortunately, hypertension exercise doesn’t necessarily mean running marathons or spending hours at the gym. The main focus of any hypertension exercise plan is to get active without exhausting or overexerting yourself.

Benefits of Exercise for Hypertension

The primary benefit of exercise with hypertension is that blood pressure readings should decrease with regular exercise. In addition, exercise offers other benefits that can lower hypertension readings. Regular exercise for hypertension also:

  • Helps maintain a healthy weight
  • Helps reduce stress and tension
  • Improves and strengthens the cardiovascular system
  • Improves sleep patterns
  • Increases energy levels.

Before Starting a Hypertension Exercise Program

Before starting any hypertension exercise program, meet with a doctor and discuss exercise options. Doctors can help patients choose a safe exercise program that fits their physical needs. A slightly overweight person with mild hypertension who leads an active life needs a hypertension exercise program very different from a person whose hypertension has contributed to heart failure. Both examples can benefit from exercise for hypertension, but their physical conditions are very different.

The effect of hypertension medication on exercise also needs to be considered. Beta-blocker medication and diuretics can interfere with body temperature, possibly causing people to overheat during rigorous exercise. Alpha-blockers, vasodilators and calcium channel blockers can cause blood pressure to drop too much if exercise is abruptly halted.

Taking these medications do not contraindicate exercising for hypertension control. People on beta-blockers can still exercise, so long as they avoid overheating. The drop in blood pressure caused by other hypertension medications reacting to a sudden end to exercise can be avoided by ending exercise with a cool-down period.

Suggested Exercise for Hypertension

Mild, non-strenuous activities are ideal for hypertension exercise programs. Suggestions for hypertension exercise activities include, but certainly aren’t limited to:

  • Biking
  • Dancing
  • Golf
  • Jogging
  • Mild to moderate hiking
  • Swimming
  • Walking.

Hypertension Exercise Guidelines

The following are a few hypertension exercise guidelines to bear in mind when creating a hypertension exercise routine:

  • Aim for approximately 20 to 30 minutes of aerobic activity most days of the week.
  • Choose an enjoyable activity.
  • Each exercise session should include stretching, the actual exercise and a cool-down period.
  • Exercise on a regular schedule.
  • Mild to moderate exercise for hypertension is just as effective as strenuous exercise, if not more so.
  • Periodically review hypertension exercise programs with doctors, especially if medication changes.
  • Start slow and work up to exercise goals gradually.

When to Stop a Hypertension Exercise Program

While most hypertension exercise programs are quite safe, people should be aware of their bodies’ limitations and personal health conditions. Talk with your doctor if you have any questions. If any of the following symptoms develop during a hypertension exercise program, stop and seek immediate medical attention:

  • Chest pain that persists
  • Dizziness/lightheadedness
  • Pressure or pain in the arm, chest, jaw, neck or shoulder
  • Unexplained swelling
  • Weakness.

Resources

American College of Sports Medicine Staff. (2004). ACSM releases exercise and hypertension position. Retrieved March 5, 2010, from the American College of Sports Medicine Web site: http://www.acsm.org/Content/ContentFolders/NewsReleases/2004/ACSM_RELEASES_EXERCISE_AND_HYPERTENSION_POSITION_STAND.htm.

Hillman, G. and Kravitz, L. (n.d.). Hypertension and exercise. Retrieved March 5, 2010, from the University of New Mexico Web site: http://www.unm.edu/~lkravitz/Article folder/hypertension.html.