People with high blood pressure (also known as hypertension) can often exercise safely by following a few medical guidelines. Consult a doctor first.

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How to Exercise Safely with High Blood Pressure

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(MARCH 2014) Exercise can be effective at minimizing your risk of high blood pressure as a young person, but it’s also one of the most effective ways of managing hypertension. Even though exercise can be daunting, you can see results from just regular light exercise – no marathons required.

But although exercise can be a valuable tool in managing your high blood pressure, you have to be sure you’re exercising safely. To start, you should understand the differences in workouts before you jump into the gym, since certain exercises can exacerbate the effects of high blood pressure, rather than helping it.

Differences in Workouts

Aerobic – Regular aerobic exercise is one of the most effective ways of managing high blood pressure. Basically, it’s any sustained body movement that increases your blood flow for at least 15-30 minutes. Regular aerobic exercise has been shown to reduce systolic blood pressure by 5 – 10 points. Walking, running, stair climbing, cycling and swimming are all common aerobic workouts.

Anaerobic – Anaerobic activities are high-intensity workouts that result in a lower oxygen supply, and they can be dangerous if your blood pressure is currently spiking. Sprinting is a common anaerobic activity, but strenuous weight training can just as dangerous if you do not maintain proper, even breathing during your workout. Anaerobic activities are the most likely to cause a spike in blood pressure, so always use caution and don’t worry about taking breaks when necessary.

Isometric Exercise – Isometric exercise uses small muscle contractions like handgrips that can lower systolic pressure by up to 10 points. Isometric exercise is easy, but can be very effective.

Yoga – There aren’t many studies that show a link between yoga and lower blood pressure, but yoga is very effective at reducing stress, which can play a large role in controlling hypertension.

How to Start Working Out

To start, you should aim for 30 minutes of cardiovascular activity, 3 days per week. If you don’t feel comfortable with that much, start at 10 minutes and work your way up to exercising for an hour, 5 days a week. Once you find an activity you enjoy, stick with it.

If you enjoy strength training, you just need to learn to manage yourself carefully. Many people who are familiar with weights try to lift heavier weights, but lifting lighter weights with higher repetition is much safer. Heavy weights can easily cause a spike in blood pressure, while sustained light activity is manageable. As stated above, always monitor your breathing and pay attention to what your body is telling you. If you become dizzy or out of breath, stop your exercise immediately.

Exercise Safely

We all know that high blood pressure can be unpredictable, and even light-to-moderate exercise can cause an increase in blood pressure. Wearing a medical ID bracelet can protect you in case you pass out during a workout by telling medical personnel that high blood pressure is your normal baseline so they can treat additional symptoms. Wearing your medical alert can make safe exercise even safer, so don’t hit the gym without it.