The term “exercise is medicine” is being used more and more. This idea is all about using physical activity to prevent and manage chronic health conditions. In my role at the Physical Activity Line (PAL), I talk to a lot of people who have questions about being active with health conditions. To answer these types of questions, I’ll be writing a series of Q&A style blogs on some of the main topics people call PAL about. Today’s post focuses on exercise and hypertension.
What is Hypertension?
Breaking down the word, hyper means excessive/over and tension refers to the pressure in the circulatory system. So, hypertension means high blood pressure.
What is Blood Pressure?
The circulatory system is a series blood vessels that connect to the heart. Your heart contracts to squeeze out blood, this causes pressure in blood vessels to go up (called systolic pressure). Then your heart relaxes to refill and pressure decreases (called diastolic pressure). Blood pressure is recorded as a ratio of systolic to diastolic pressure. Normal blood pressure is 120/80.
Can I be Active if I Have Hypertension?
In most cases, yes. As a matter of fact, physical activity is often the first line of treatment for hypertension. Talk to your physician or the Physical Activity Line staff about getting started.
Which Exercises Are Best?
Aerobic activities (such as jogging and swimming) have been found to be the most beneficial and are the most recommended type of exercise. Resistance training can also help if done correctly – it is highly recommended to work with a qualified exercise professional if you are starting out with resistance training.
How Does Exercise Help Hypertension?
After exercise, blood vessels become more relaxed and blood flows more easily. When blood vessels are relaxed the heart doesn’t have to work as hard; this keeps blood pressure in check. Other benefits such as weight loss and reduced psychological stress also help lower blood pressure.