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Have you been diagnosed with high blood pressure? Here is everything you'll need to know around the risks and benefits of exercises with high blood pressure.
High blood pressure is one of the most common cardiovascular diagnoses given to North Americans. It has become so common that the risks associated with hypertension are often diminished, and not taken as seriously as they should be. In reality, high blood pressure is a dangerous precursor to a number of other problems. Once you are diagnosed with high blood pressure it is difficult — but in many cases possible — to bring your blood pressure down naturally, avoiding a life-long reliance on medications.
Certainly, cutting out unhealthy, sodium rich foods and eating balanced meals will have some effect on high blood pressure, but for the most effective treatment, engaging in adequate physical activity can bring blood pressure down to normal ranges, at least in people whose hypertension was caused in part by unhealthy lifestyle choices.

Cardiovascular training for high blood pressure

Cardio activity is any kind of exercise which increases your heart rate, probably makes you sweat, and keeps your heart rate up for several minutes. Every person's starting point will be unique. If you have had a desk job for the last 10 years and rarely exercise, a ten minute brisk walk will get the heart going already. For others, a 15 minute ride on a bicycle at a moderate pace would be enough. These activities can last from a few minutes to an hour or more. Doing cardo often will train the heart to become effective, and can improve the elasticity of the artery walls.

However, it is very important to consult a doctor before beginning any exercise program to find out what your safe range is to work in, especially if you have already been diagnosed with hypertension. Heart rate is the most accurate way to determine how difficult the task at hand is. A doctor may recommend lighter work for those with dangerously high hypertension, or a more arbitrary recommendation to get active in those with moderately high blood pressure levels. Exercising does increase your heart rate, which in turn increases blood pressure during the activity. For this reason, those people with more dangerous levels of blood pressure may have to start working out very gradually. This is the most important consideration to make when preparing for cardiovascular workouts.

Weight training for people with high blood pressure

Weight training is important in any exercise program to fully benefit from working out. Weight training often gets dropped to the side by those with hypertension because of the myth that it is too dangerous. While this may be the case for a handful of people, weight training is a very healthy activity, and is very effective at lowering blood pressure in the long run.

There are several points to consider when preparing for a weight training program.

  • Start with 2 session each week. Pick your days, and stick with them.
  • Always use proper technique. Use the help of trainers to ensure you are using proper technique to avoid injury and get the full benefit of the exercise.
  • Keep breathing. Never hold your breath during exercise, this causes a reflex which can cause fainting.
  • Lift lighter weights. This is not a race to the finish, so choose lighter weights and lift them more repetitions. This will bring the heart rate up slowly and steadily.
  • Be aware of yourself and your needs. Pay attention to your body. If you feel dizzy or light headed, or that something is too heavy, take a rest and relax. There is nothing wrong with taking breaks during exercise.

Exercise holds a very important place when it comes to reducing all kinds of health risk factors. A healthy lifestyle should always include a balanced diet and regular physical activity. However, that is not to say that everyone with hypertension would be able to control their blood pressure and keep it within the healthy range if they only cut out unhealthy habits like eating junk food, smoking, and drinking, and adopted healthy ones like exercising often. 

Some people with essential hypertension will retain high blood pressure no matter what healthy changes they make in their lives. They may even be diagnosed at a point where no further steps remain to naturally lower their blood pressure. These people will need to take medication no matter what. In this case, it's important to be aware that, while exercise remains a healthy choice, your targets may be "off". Taking beta blockers will cause your heart rate to stay lower even when you engage in vigorous cardio workouts, for instance. Discuss your ways to stay safe with your doctor!