How Does Exercise Reduce Blood Pressure? Hratch Karamanoukian, MD
Does exercise reduce blood pressure?
Lifestyle modifications such as weight reduction, diet control and physical activity have long been described as natural alternatives to blood pressure reduction. Hypertension has been associated with severe cardiovascular and neurologic morbidity and mortality, and in a country where almost 25 million Americans (12-13 %) take antihypertensive medication each year, natural ways to control blood pressure are gaining in popularity.
What kind of exercise is good for lowering my blood pressure?
Most studies indicate that regular aerobic physical exercise such as jogging, swimming, or biking is most effective when it comes to reducing blood pressures. Most recommendations suggest 30-45 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise several times a week is all that’s needed to see a reduction. Recent studies indicate that more physical exercise such as weight training may also be effective in providing modest blood pressure reductions.
How much of a reduction in my blood pressure can I expect?
An article published in the Archives of Internal Medicine in 2000 showed that people who initiated a regular exercise program obtained a reduction in their systolic and diastolic blood pressures of 4-5 mm Hg on average. Most other studies, including the DEW-IT trial, showed similar reductions, some as high as 10 mm Hg. While the changes may seem trivial, even small reductions can often prevent the development and associated complications of hypertension.
What is better for my blood pressure, exercise or weight loss?
Actually, both! The DEW-IT study mentioned above and published in the journal Hypertension in 2002 showed that a combination of weight loss and regular exercise helped decrease blood pressures by as much as 12.1 mm Hg on average. If you can’t do both however, weight loss seems to provide a slightly higher reduction than regular exercise (7 mm Hg vs. 4 mm Hg respectively), but both methods are effective natural alternatives and a good way to start lowering your blood pressure.
Are there other lifestyle changes I can make to help lower my blood pressure?
We are glad you asked the question. Actually, both of the studies mentioned above as well as numerous other publications suggest that other lifestyle modifications may be an effective beginning to changing your blood pressure. For example, smoking cessation and sodium restriction are two common changes shown to be effective in moderately reducing blood pressure readings. While it may be hard to undertake all of these significant changes in your lifestyle at once, perhaps the best plan is to gradually adopt these changes one at a time if you’re trying to reduce your blood pressure.
Results of the Diet, Exercise, and Weight Loss Intervention Trial (DEW-IT), Hypertension 40:612–618