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How exercise improves blood pressure

Like all muscles in your body, your heart gets stronger when you exercise it. When your heart is strong, it is easier for it to pump blood to the rest of your body, which can lower your blood pressure. And, not surprisingly, the best way to strengthen your heart is to exercise. Here are a few ways exercising can help lower high blood pressure.

how exercise improves blood pressureBlood vessels and arteries become elastic

When you exercise, your heart beats faster and harder, which causes your blood vessels to dilate and relax. Your blood pressure rises a little during exercise, but your blood vessels become more elastic and stretch to accommodate blood flow and keep blood pressure under control. Elastic blood vessels can help prevent high blood pressure by helping blood flow freely. Less elastic vessels and arteries can lead to decreased blood flow and possibly even heart disease. Exercise essentially helps balance high blood pressure by working against its effects.

Arteries stay healthy

High blood pressure can damage the inner lining of your arteries. But regular exercise will help your heart pump blood more easily, which helps decrease the pressure on artery walls and lowers blood pressure. It also helps keep the inner lining of your arteries smooth and open, helping improve blood pressure and protect your heart health.

High blood pressure risks are lowered

Regular exercise can also improve other areas of your health. Being active can help prevent obesity and high cholesterol, which are risk factors for high blood pressure. Some of these risk factors make it harder for your heart to pump blood through your body, causing stress on your heart and raising the pressure inside your artery walls. Even just a little exercise a day can help lower these risk factors.

Tips to help you exercise

The American College of Sports Medicine reports that aerobic exercise can lower blood pressure by 5 to 7 mm Hg for those with high blood pressure. When you have high blood pressure, you may want to talk to your doctor before starting an exercise plan.

Here are some tips that can make exercising safer:

Aim for 150 minutes of exercise a week

Get at least 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity exercise (30 minutes a day, five days a week). You don’t need to start by going 30 minutes straight each day. You can start slowly by doing three 10-minute exercise sessions each day as you ramp up to a full 30-minute block.

Warm up and cool down

Gradually increasing your heart rate for a workout with a warmup and slowly decreasing your heart rate after a workout by cooling down can help your heart rate adjust. Try walking, cycling or jumping rope at a slow pace for five to 10 minutes before and after your workout. 

Pace yourself

Gradually build up from 50% of your target heart rate to 85%. Try to find a pace that you can maintain for an extended period of time. This can help you maintain intensity throughout the duration of your exercise without burning out too quickly.

Mix things up

When you’re just starting out, do a variety of exercises to find what you like and what will keep you motivated. Try walking or jogging one day and doing body-weight resistance exercises the next day. This will keep things interesting and ensure you’re getting a total body workout.

Be careful with weightlifting

While strength training is safe for people with high blood pressure, pushing yourself with weights that test your limits and/or doing multiple sets with little rest in between, can raise blood pressure too high. 

Avoid exercises with quick transitions

Try to avoid doing exercises that require you to change body positions quickly. Be careful when moving from a sitting to a standing position too quickly, especially if you have low blood pressure. If your exercise routine has different exercises in it, gradually transition between exercises to give your body time to slowly adjust.

Talk to your doctor

The best way to find out if you have high blood pressure is to measure your blood pressure with your doctor. Your doctor can help you understand your results and whether you should consider making lifestyle changes to keep your blood pressure under control. There are often no symptoms of high blood pressure, so checking it often can help you make sure your blood pressure is at a normal level.

Don’t have a doctor?

If you don’t have a doctor, it’s easy to find one. Log in to the Blue Cross of Idaho member app or member website and select Find Care. From there, you can filter your results by location, specialty and more. Make sure you’re logged in so you only see doctors that are in your network.


Posted: May 24, 2023