More than 75 million Americans have hypertension, a condition the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) defines as "chronically elevated blood pressure greater than 140/90 mmHg." Left untreated, hypertension raises risks for heart attack, stroke, and other types of cardiovascular disease. While some people turn to medication to manage hypertension, others prefer more natural remedies. Can exercise lower blood pressure? Research tells us that regular physical exercise can lower blood pressure. It even lowers death rates in certain populations.
A review study published in the Journal of the American College of Sports Medicine determined that exercising three to five times per week at an intensity of 40 to 50% of maximum exercise performance appears to lower blood pressure, especially in people who are hypertensive.
Researchers from the Cooper Clinic in Dallas, Texas compared fit men with uncontrolled blood pressure to sedentary men with the same condition. Death rates for moderately-fit men and highly-fit men were 46% and 68% lower respectively, than death rates for sedentary men.
How can exercise lower blood pressure?
Physical activity causes blood to flow more rapidly through the arteries. The force of quicker blood flow triggers endothelial cells along the blood vessel walls to produce nitric oxide, a substance that relaxes and expands blood vessels. When relaxed, vessels circulate more blood throughout the body, which lowers blood pressure and reduces chances for heart disease and stroke. According to the ACSM, people who follow a regular program they can stay with over the long term maximize the blood-pressure reducing benefits of exercise.
What is the best kind of exercise for reducing blood pressure?
Most experts recommend at least 30 minutes of moderate aerobic activity five days per week. Good examples of aerobic exercise include:
- Jogging or running
- Cross-country skiing
By boosting amounts of nitric oxide produced by the blood vessels, exercise benefits blood pressure and a whole lot more. The addition of a nutritious diet and stress-reduction techniques like guided imagery, meditation, or yoga offers a holistic recipe for an ultra-healthy cardiovascular system.