High Blood Pressure and Exercise

Medical Author: Dwight Makoff, MD and Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
Medical Editor: Leslie J. Schoenfield, MD, PhD

A sedentary lifestyle is a major risk factor for 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 trials have shown that physical activity may reduce blood pressure in hypertensive and 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 effects and 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 exercise is 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.)

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