Exercise Prescription: Essential for Cardiovascular Health
Updated: Feb 18
Exercise, both aerobic as well as resistance are just as important if not more so than medications in achieving desired blood pressures of less than or equal to 120/80 while maintaining normal pressures over time. If you cant get your pressure down with medications alone, strongly consider incorporating exercise daily to get and keep your pressure down.
Aerobic exercising just 30 minutes a day can lower blood pressures by as much as 4-9 mm Hg. Post-exercise vasodilatation can be maintained throughout the day. Something as simple as dancing, walking, cycling, swimming, or active sports, for 150 min. per week (30 min. 5 days/week) can reduce the risk of complications of high blood pressure like stroke & heart attack by as much as 30%. Increased oxygenation to every cell is one of the many benefits as well as reduced stress, better sleep, immunity & cognition. Exercise is critical in warding off inflammation, obesity, diabetes, dementia, depression, anxiety, and cancer.
In your quest to be fit, make sure you start to move daily. If you have been sitting around, inactive, start with 2-3 minutes of activity/day, even in a chair! Have at it until you can move into 10 minutes of activity/day by adding on a minute or so when your body tells you it can take on more. Begin with low-intensity exercise if you are awaiting a visit with your primary care provider to be evaluated for what is safe to take on. If you are or have been smoking, in your 40's +, are overweight, diagnosed with heart disease, diabetes or even have a family history of heart disease, or have pains in the chest, arms & legs with exercise, get evaluated to see what is a safe start for your exercise program to reap multiple benefits.
If you have been diagnosed with high blood pressure or even pre-hypertension, aim for 7 days per week of exercise. 3 sets of 10-minute workouts woven into a workday are just as effective as a 30-minute workout. If you are comfortable with a 30-minute workout, add on more! Aim towards a 60 to 90-minutes/day of a moderate-intensity workout as tolerated. Once you have started to achieve some cardiovascular tone and your primary care doctor has given you the OK, start to put a high-intensity exercise routine in the middle of your moderate-intensity workout to achieve higher levels of cardiovascular fitness. Add on weight/resistance as well as flexibility training 2-3 times/week to make the most of your daily workout. Monitor your heart rate. Aim to achieve target heart rate for cardio/endurance training for at least 20 minutes see chart. If your heart rate is above this rate for your age, SLOW DOWN into your range.
You can start with doing something as simple as throwing on your favorite music and dancing. Don't find a reason to not move the qi (energy). Make something as simple as going up and downstairs, doing household work, or even going to the store be an opportunity to be more cardiovascular fit. Your blood pressure and overall well-being, physically, mentally, and emotionally will be all the better!