Hypertension is the clinical or medical term for high blood pressure, something that most people have heard of. High blood pressure greatly increases the risk of strokes, heart disease, heart attacks and aneurysms. Not as well-known, however, is the fact that even a moderate increase in blood pressure has a long-term impact on a person’s health, and is associated with a shortened life expectancy. This is due to the fact that the heart is forced to work harder in order to pump blood through the body; the longer this goes on, the greater the potential damage to a person’s health. While most cases of hypertension have no medical cause, a small amount (around 7-12%) can be caused due to a failure of the kidneys, arteries or the endocrine system.
Exercise, even a moderate amount, can reduce blood pressure and the dangerous effects of hypertension. Typically a short amount of exercise several days a week, reducing the amount of sodium (salt) in the diet, and maintaining a healthy body weight can ensure that the dangers of hypertension are avoided.
The importance of physical exercise in reducing hypertension cannot be understated, specifically aerobic or cardio-based activities. Anaerobic activities, for example weightlifting, sit-ups and push-ups, are good for developing strength in the body. But in order to reduce high blood pressure, it is important to raise the number of heartbeats per minute. Aerobic exercise over a period of time will train the body to be both stronger and to take onboard more oxygen. This oxygen gets passed around the body by the blood. When the body carries a higher level of oxygen, the heart is working harder to pump it around the body. Knowing this, your body will also work harder to ‘clean out’ arteries to allow for easier blood flow. These things will reduce the blood pressure when performed over a period of time. It will be easier for blood and oxygen to be delivered through the body, so the heart will not need to work as hard.
So how much exercise is a good amount in order to achieve the desired effect? According to a number of studies, you should aim for 30 minutes, four to five times per week for long-term health benefits.
A moderate exercise activity can be anything from a walk, run or swimming, to competing in a sport, or even household activities like climbing the stairs or mowing the lawn. The specific activity itself is not as important as the goal of increasing the heart rate. Short bursts of exercise performed throughout the day will have the desired effect but it is important to remember that the age of a person and their ability to perform certain activities should always take precedence.
Thirty minutes of exercise is something that most people can accommodate in their daily lives and something we should all strive for. If you are ever diagnosed with hypertension, be sure to consult with your doctor regarding complications. Otherwise, help ensure it does not become a problem by exercising regularly.