People with high blood pressure (also known as hypertension) often worry their condition makes exercising impossible or even dangerous. They feel that they’re caught in a catch-22: Though they feel it may be unsafe, they logically know exercise is a proven way to lower blood pressure.
If you or someone you care about has hypertension, know this: In reality, even people with extremely high blood pressure can safely perform certain exercises to improve their overall health and lower their blood pressure. Here’s what to keep in mind.
Step One: Medication
All blood pressure can be controlled through medication. If you find your blood pressure is very high (above 160/100), that could be a sign of problems with your treatment plan. Before beginning an exercise plan, consult with your doctor about finding the right medication to lower your blood pressure.
Step Two: Diet and Exercise
No matter how high your blood pressure, you can do some kind of exercise to help lower it. Avoid lifting weights if your blood pressure is above 160/100; instead, focus on light cardiovascular training to improve your base level of fitness.
Begin by making small changes, such as taking a brief walk every day or standing at your desk instead of sitting. When you feel ready, remember that 10 minutes of focused exercise can be better than 30 minutes of slow walking. For example, run as fast as you can for a minute and then walk for two minutes, repeating for a total of 10 minutes. The same pattern can be applied to other aerobic exercises, such as swimming and biking. Eventually, incorporate strength training (with or without weights) and stretching into your workout regimen for best results.
Dietary changes can also help to control high blood pressure. Reduce your salt intake by cutting back on processed meat and condiments; use portion control to help manage your weight and keep your blood pressure in a healthy range.
Before embarking on an exercise routine, make sure your blood pressure is controlled and talk to your doctor about your age and any underlying heart disease. Your doctor can prescribe medication to help keep your blood pressure in a safe range and can provide advice about the types of exercise you should perform. When it comes to your ticker, you’re better safe than sorry!