High blood pressure exercise should be fun



Exercise is fun - not torture

In case the thought of high blood pressure exercise has got you worried, I promise I will not be talking about pain and discomfort here. If you are thinking 'no pain no gain' - please, think again. The purpose of this section is to convince you that exercise can be fun. And remember the CHBP.com philosophy - Make small changes but make them last. We are not talking about taking up marathon running!

Some people are used to exercise and merely need to increase the amount they do. Others need a way to gradually get the body used to increased levels of activity. However, everyone can increase their activity levels and if you are serious about controlling your high blood pressure exercise should be part of the plan. I can promise you that in terms of overall wellbeing, it is one of the most effective lifestyle changes to make. I will give you some tips on how to make exercise fun and free of discomfort but first let's talk about why it is so good for you.

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The benefits of exercise

Exercise has so many health benefits that I think it should be illegal not to do it! Here are some proven benefits:

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  • Reduces blood pressure
  • Reduces stress
  • Lowers cholesterol levels
  • Increases feelings of wellbeing
  • Helps to reduce weight
  • Improves sexual activity
  • Improves sleep
  • Reduces the risk of heart disease
  • Improves joint function


What happens when you exercise?

People often worry about exercising with high blood pressure. It is wise to be cautious and you should definitely ensure your doctor approves of any plans you make. But, as long as you do not have heart disease and you develop a high blood pressure exercise plan that increases your exertion gradually there is nothing to worry about. If you do have heart disease, exercise is still very beneficial but you programme should be graduated and should be much more closely supervised by your healthcare team.

When you exercise, the heart has to pump more blood around to the working muscles to give them fuel and oxygen. You breathe faster to ensure that more oxygen goes to the lungs (and from there into the blood). You also heat up because heat is produced as a by-product of burning the fuel to make the muscles work. Therefore a useful sign that shows that the exercise is benefiting you is for your breathing rate to go up and for you to feel warm.

The heart

Less work for the heart when at rest

As you know, the heart is a muscle that pumps away 24/7. You might find it surprising that giving it extra work to do is somehow beneficial. However, just as hypertension puts extra strain on the heart and other results of inactivity (like obesity) also make it harder for the heart to do its job - activity tunes up the circulation and makes it more efficient - including the circulation to the heart itself. The benefit of high blood pressure exercise is that the lowering of your blood pressure and improved circulation means that your heart does less work the rest of the time when you are not exercising.

Muscle, bone and joints

Exercise on the beach The body makes significant structural changes in response to new functions that are placed upon it over time. You will know for example that a muscle that is exercised regularly grows bigger - and conversely one that is not used grows leaner. But what about other fundamental changes that accompany exercise? For example the blood supply to the exercised muscles improves over time so that it is better even at rest. The joints also benefit and they become better lubricated as a result of the extra movement, also beyond the period of exercising. The body's repair mechanisms are focused more on areas that experience increased use - places that used to hurt very often stop. Bones become stronger, especially at places where they need to cope with the extra load created by exercise.

Areas that are not exercised also benefit from extra blood flow, after all, even if the blood is needed mainly by your thigh muscles, your eye muscles are still going to get an extra flushing of blood as it rushes around the body.

Improved metabolism

Levels of your bad cholesterol go down and levels of good cholesterol go up. This is a by-product of the numerous changes in your metabolism that occur as a result of all the chemical reactions that are needed to maintain higher activity levels - fuel is burned, hormones are released, enzymes called onto play and so on. So, if you have high blood pressure exercise induces metabolic changes that benefit your whole body and reduce cardiovascular risk.

In summary

We are designed for activity and our bodies function better when we are active. When we are not, things slow down and fall into disrepair. You need to find an activity or activities that you like and keep it up regularly from now on.

And remember - when I talk about high blood pressure exercise, do not think of discomfort. I am talking about regular moderate exertion that will begin to make you feel better almost immediately!

Key points

  • Exercise, in addition to reducing your blood pressure, has numerous positive effects on your health and wellbeing
  • Exercise is safe for the vast majority of people - even with high blood pressure or heart conditions
  • If you do have a heart condition - ensure your exercise plan is supervised by your doctor
  • If you are unfit, or unused to exercise, start gently and devise a high blood pressure exercise plan that gradually increases the amount you do over a number of weeks.



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This page was last modified on : May 10, 2011.