Need to drop your blood pressure by up to 20 points? One of the best ways to accomplish this feat is by returning to your ideal body weight. You can calculate it by determining your body mass index (use the BMI calculator at the bottom of the page).
To help reach your weight goal, and to help lower your blood pressure in the meantime, consider these six exercises/activities, says Wesley Tyree, MD, a cardiologist and independent member of the HonorHealth Medical Staff:
1. Ten minutes of brisk or moderate walking three times a day
Exercise lowers blood pressure by reducing blood vessel stiffness so blood can flow more easily. The effects of exercise are most noticeable during and immediately after a workout. Lowered blood pressure can be most significant right after you work out.
So, health professionals theorize, the ideal way to combat high blood pressure might be to break up your workout into several sessions throughout the day. In fact, one study found that three 10-minute walks a day more effectively prevented future blood pressure spikes than one 30-minute trek per day.
2. Thirty minutes a day of biking or stationary cycling, or three 10-minute blocks of cycling
The same reasoning applies here as it does for walking.
The muscle power needed to climb a road on an incline, a hill or a mountain can help you achieve a greater level of fitness. Physical activity such as hiking can lower blood pressure up to 10 points.
4. Desk treadmilling or pedal pushing
Blood pressure readings were even more optimal in a study when participants ambled along at a slow 1-mile-per-hour pace at desk-based treadmills for at least 10 minutes every hour, or pedaled stationary bikes under a desk for at least 10 minutes every hour.
5. Weight training
Although it sounds counterintuitive, weight training or lifting can reduce blood pressure. Strength training actually raises blood pressure levels temporarily, but can help overall fitness, which will improve blood pressure levels as well.
This form of exercise can be beneficial in controlling blood pressure in adults 60 and older, another study found. Over a period of 12 weeks, swimmer-participants gradually worked their way up to 45 minutes of continuous swimming at a time. By the end of the study, the swimmers had reduced their systolic blood pressure by an average of nine points.
"The benefits of exercise are not realized if the exercise is not sustained," Dr. Tyree said, "so the 'use it or lose it' theory is true. You can lose gains after stopping exercise for two weeks. Moderate exercise for 150 minutes per week or vigorous exercise for 75 minutes per week is the standard recommendation."
To calculate your BMI, use this helpful tool:
Need a little help along the way?
If you've been struggling to control your high blood pressure, talk to your primary care physician or make an appointment with a cardiovascular specialist.