• Dmitri Konash

What is the best exercise for high blood pressure?


Stretching exercises
Is aerobic activity still the best exercise for high blood pressure?

What is usually considered to be a good exercise to lower blood pressure? The first choice is usually trying an aerobic exercise like walking or jogging. You can’t go wrong with aerobic exercise as a long term lifestyle change to address hypertension. But is it the best choice if you want to lower blood pressure quickly at home?


Aerobic exercise to lower heart health risks


The message from cardiologists is loud and clear: regular exercise is good for your heart health. Aerobic exercises keep heart rate up and hence train a cardiovascular system. Your blood vessels get trained. They expand during a workout when blood pressure is rising and contract after exercise when blood pressure gradually gets lower.

What are the best aerobic exercises for high blood pressure? They are simple exercises like brisk walking, jogging, cycling or swimming. Playing ball games with your family or moderately hard work in your garden is a good choice as well.


How long should you perform aerobic exercises? The American Heart Association recommends at least 150 minutes per week of moderate intensity of aerobic activity or 75 minutes per week of vigorous aerobic activity. You still can talk to your friend while performing a moderate intensity exercise. You will not be able to say more than a few words without pausing for a breath while doing a vigorous aerobic activity.


What is high blood pressure?


High blood pressure is a major risk factor for heart attack and stroke. You normally don't feel high blood pressure so the only way to know for sure is to take blood pressure readings regularly.


Blood pressure is the force of blood flowing through your blood vessels. For those at risk of high blood pressure doctors usually recommend to measure it twice daily: in the morning and in the evening. In this case it is a good idea to use at-home blood pressure monitors.


A normal blood pressure reading is less than 120/80 mm Hg, according to the American Heart Association. Systolic blood pressure, the upper number, refers to how much force your blood is exerting in your arteries when your heart beats. Diastolic blood pressure, the lower number, is the force in your arteries when your heart is at rest.

High blood pressure (same as hypertension) is diagnosed in stages. Being overweight is one of the major risk factors for high blood pressure and heart risk. Others include eating an unhealthy diet, not exercising regularly, smoking, and/or consuming too much alcohol.


Stretching exercises for high blood pressure


This research paper [1] from 2020 indeed demonstrated that 30 minutes of stretching on most days of the week led to better reduction in blood pressure than a 30-minute walk on 5 days of the week.


The authors of the paper explain. "Everyone thinks that stretching is just about stretching your muscles. But when you stretch your muscles, you're also stretching all the blood vessels that feed into the muscle, including all the arteries." This reduces the stiffness in the arteries, there's less resistance to blood flow, and this may result in lower blood pressure.

Previous studies have shown that stretching could improve blood flow to muscles and tissues. Authors suggest also that people who already walk to reduce their high blood pressure should continue to do so. But they should also consider incorporating stretching sessions into their daily routine. Compared with brisk walking, stretching was associated with larger reductions in blood pressure across five of the 12 measurements.


Other health benefits of stretching exercises


If you are a senior looking to gain more mobility and flexibility, stretching might be a great exercise for you. It is likely to help you to avoid falls and other injuries. Studies have shown that with age flexibility decreases by up to 50%. This decrease is gradual so we may not even notice it. Until we try to raise something from the floor and an accident happens.


Research suggests that yoga and pilates, which involve a lot of stretching, also reduce blood pressure. Ancient relaxation practices like acupressure, self massage, yoga, and qigong also contribute strongly to lower blood pressure. Slower breathing which happens naturally during these exercises leads to activation of the parasympathetic nervous system which ultimately leads to blood vessels vasodilation and hence to reduction in blood pressure.

How to start easy stretching exercises?


You may try how stretching exercises impact your blood pressure by following a simple 6 minute exercise routine on our YouTube channel @Breathnow. These stretching exercises for high blood pressure include the following stretches: Head turn, Shoulder stretch, Body twist, Quad stretch, Shoulder squeeze.




Take a blood pressure before these stretching exercises to lower blood pressure and a few minutes after and compare results for yourself. Also, Breathow, a blood pressure app, includes different types of exercises for high blood pressure. Most of the functionality of this app is free. The feedback of users is exceptional. You can also track how your blood pressure changes with time and see what exercises produced the largest positive impact.

Summary

  • Stretching exercises may be more effective than aerobic exercise for high blood pressure

  • Those with risk of hypertension should continue doing aerobic exercise

  • Stretching exercise for high blood pressure can produce short term relief in just 6 minutes

References

  1. Stretching is superior to brisk walking in reducing blood pressure in people with high-normal blood pressure or stage 1 hypertension.

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