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  • Writer's pictureDmitri Konash

Why uphill walks supercharge your heart health

How to exercise to lower blood pressure and reduce heart health risks


Exercise to lower blood pressure with BreathNow app

In one of the previous posts I wrote about the benefits of raising  your heart  rate (HR) to 80%+ of a maximum for a few minutes. It is great for  blood pressure and longevity. This type of exercise falls under ‘vigorous’ based on the classification of the American Heart Association [1]. 


This post expands on this topic. We explain more benefits of this type of workout and how to perform it. As this type of exercise puts our cardiovascular system under significant stress (for a short time period), it is critical that you discuss it with your doctor prior to engaging  in it. 


How to extend your life by 2 years?  


The answer to this question [2] is to increase your VO2Max (the indicator of cardiorespiratory fitness) from “Below lower normal” to “Low normal”. Scientists tell us that we add another 2.9 years of life by moving from “Low normal” to “High normal”. 


How do you measure your VO2Max? The gold standard is to use a special lab test which requires a significant physical effort. Alternatively you can get an estimation from different sports smartwatches. The fastest and the cheapest (FREE) approach is to use a 5 min step test in our app BreathNow which can be done at home. This  test  has been developed by our team together  with scientists from the University of  Cambridge (UK) and it provides comparable accuracy to smartwatch estimations. 


How to lower blood pressure with exercise? 


We talked about the positive effect of exercise on blood pressure. Here are the results of the recent research on this topic [4]: 

  • 6 weeks duration.

  • 1 hour of vigorous exercise 3 times per week.

  • Hypertensive participants. 

  • SYS BP dropped by 8-12 mmHg, DIA dropped by 5-6 mmHg. 


How to reverse 20 years of heart aging? 


This is what the research [3] recommends:

  • 5 hours of overall physical activity per week for 2 years.

  • 4 x 4 VO2Max protocol 2 times per week.

  • 1.5 hours of moderate aerobic exercises per week

  • Additional strength training sessions. 

50 year old participants (average age) were able to reverse their heart structure and make it similar to 30 year olds. 


Does exercise kill cancer cells?


Key points from the research on this topic [5]. 

  • 6 months of aerobic exercise. 

  • 70% of maximum heart rate, 150 minutes per week.

  • “Significantly reduced circulating tumor cells in patients with stage 1-3 colon cancer”

  • Circulating tumor cells linked to 3X higher risk of cancer recurrence and 4X higher risk of mortality. 

Scientists suggest that increased flow of blood during aerobic exercise kills circulating tumor cells. 


What is the most popular protocol for improving VO2Max? 


It is called the 4 X 4 protocol: 

  • Perform an activity which brings your HR to 85-95% of maximum heart rate and sustain this activity for 4 minutes.

  • Recover for 3 minutes  with light exercise.

  • Repeat 4 times. 

This protocol works great on a hill or stairs which takes you  4 minutes to get to the top and walk down in 3 minutes. 


What if I am just starting to improve my VO2Max? 


If the 4 X 4 VO2Max protocol seems totally unattainable for you at this time, start from something less ambitious. Like walking up the nearest hill. Our app BreathNow includes a broad range of VO2Max exercises. You can start from shorter and easier ones and gradually progress to the most efficient. 


In addition to the VO2Max free step test which can be done at home, BreathNow also includes a Tracker which will help you to observe how different exercises impact your VO2Max, blood pressure, heart rate and stress (HRV). Please give it a try and let us know how BreathNow helped you to get healthier and happier. 


References: 

  1. Recommendations for  Physical Activities in Adults and Kids,  American Heart Association, https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/fitness/fitness-basics/aha-recs-for-physical-activity-in-adults

  2. Midlife Cardiorespiratory Fitness and the Long-Term Risk of Mortality: 46 Years of Follow-Up, National Centre for Biotechnology Information, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30139444/

  3. Effects of aging and endurance exercise training on cardiorespiratory fitness and cardiac structure and function in healthy midlife and older women, https://journals.physiology.org/doi/abs/10.1152/japplphysiol.00798.2022

  4. Effects of Aerobic Training Progression on Blood Pressure in Individuals With Hypertension: A Systematic Review With Meta-Analysis and Meta-Regression, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/35252853/

  5. Effects of exercise on circulating tumor cells among patients with resected stage I-III colon cancer, https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0204875

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