Being physically active is one of the best ways to decrease blood pressure when it is elevated. In fact, it is the third most effective way to naturally lower blood pressure surpassed only by weight loss and the DASH diet. Combining exercise with diet and weight loss is a powerful way to lower blood pressure.
Benefits of Regular Activity
In addition to lowering blood pressure, exercise has numerous other health benefits. Some of these benefits include improved memory, increased energy level, lower cholesterol, improved mood, stronger bones and better sleep. So making it a habit to get more exercise will contribute to your overall health.
The benefits of exercise for maintaining blood pressure are so great there is no question as to the need to make regular activity a part of your life. When starting an exercise program it is important to start slowly and under the supervision of a doctor. You will want to pick an activity you enjoy, start light and easy and gradually increase the intensity and duration over time.
What Type of Activity is Beneficial?
The US Dept of Health and Human Services recommends 150 minutes per week of moderate intensity activity. It is broken down to 30 minutes, 5 days per week. On each day, the 30 minutes can be broken down into smaller segments of at least 10 minutes each and can be any aerobic type of activity.
Aerobic exercise can be defined as any activity which involves large muscle groups and can be maintained continuously. It is often rhythmic in nature. Some examples of aerobic activities include walking, running, bicycling, swimming, tennis, aerobic dance, cross country skiing, tennis and basketball. In addition to the above exercises, there are many other activities that can count towards the weekly 150 minutes.
Some of these include gardening, housework such as cleaning and vacuuming, raking leaves, shoveling snow, washing and waxing the car. Any activity that make your heart pump faster can be included in this list.
An excellent exercise for the beginner or someone who has not exercised in a while is walking. This activity requires no specialized equipment other than a good pair of athletic shoes and appropriate clothing. You can vary the location to keep it interesting and you can adjust your speed based on your fitness level and desire to push yourself. As your fitness level increases you can progress into jogging or running.
How to Get Started Walking
Before getting started, if you have not been active in some time you will want to check with your doctor first. Once your doctor has cleared you for exercise you will want to start slowly and increase gradually. Your first day walking you will walk a mile and time how long it takes. This will be your baseline.
Once you have your baseline you will begin walking a comfortable distance 3 days per week. Walk at a pace that is fast enough where you can speak about 6 to 8 words. If you can speak several phrases, you need to increase the intensity and if you are gasping for breath you need to lower the intensity.
As you progress you will want to slowly introduce longer distances and add additional days to your routine. Also, after a few weeks you may want to consider adding some variety to your walks. Your body adapts relatively quickly to new routines and adding variety will allow you to improve faster.
To add variety you can have long days and short days. On the long days you will walk 25% to 50% further than you normally do. Another way to add variety is to have hard days and easy days. On the hard days you will try to push yourself just a little bit more than a normal day. On the easy days you will go just a little bit slower than your normal pace. As you become accustomed to walking you can add even more variety but choosing courses that have more hills in them or even go off road into hiking trails. If you feel like you are ready, you can even add jogging to the mix.
To do this you will initially walk at least 5 minutes as a warmup. Then you will jog for 10 seconds and walk for 50 seconds of each minute. Finish by walking the last 5 minutes to cool down. Over time, you can increase the time you jog and decrease the time you walk until you are jogging the entire time.
At some point you may want to add different activities such as tennis, swimming, basketball etc. to your mix of activities. Find thing you enjoy so you are more likely to stick with it.
Tips to Keep You on Track
Identify several activities you enjoy. By identifying several enjoyable activities you will have a variety of things you can pick from on a regular basis.
Do activities with other people whenever possible This will help keep you accountable because there is someone else who expects to participate with you.
Subscribe to at least one fitness magazine. Having this magazine show up in the mail on a regular basis will keep you motivated and provide valuable information to help you improve.
Keep a journal. This will help you stay motivated as you see your improvements.
Put exercise on the schedule with the highest priority. Getting exercise is important and needs to be treated like all other important things.
Stay hydrated, especially during the summer.
Get enough sleep. If you are not getting enough sleep, you will not have the energy to exercise.