High Blood Pressure and Exercise
Medical Author: Dwight
Makoff, MDand Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
Medical Editor: Leslie J. Schoenfield, MD, PhD
A sedentary lifestyle is a major risk factorfor heart and blood vessel (cardiovascular) disease. For example, people who are less active and less physically fit have a 30%-50% greater frequency (incidence) of hypertension (high blood pressure) than their more active peers. Furthermore, clinical trialshave shown that physical activity may reduce blood pressure in hypertensiveand normotensive(having normal blood pressure) individuals, independent of changes in weight.
Medications have proven to be effective in lowering blood pressure and protecting against the risk of cardiovascular and kidney(renal) diseases. However, because of the side effectsand cost of medications, many individuals would prefer to undertake lifestyle modifications to help improve blood pressure as a first-line treatment. In numerous clinical studies, it has been well documented that aerobic exerciseis a suitable treatment and can even play a roll in the prevention of hypertension. (Aerobic exercise is vigorous and sustained exercise, such as jogging, swimming, and cycling.)
Even without changes in body weight, those individuals who participate in aerobic exercise regularly tend to have reductions in resting blood pressure. The blood-pressure reduction does not seem to depend on the frequency or intensity of aerobic exercise or on the type of exercise. That is, the studies have indicated that all forms of exercise seem to be effective in reducing blood pressure. Aerobic exercise appears to have a slightly greater effect on blood pressure in hypertensive individuals than in individuals without hypertension.