How to Lower Blood Pressure with Exercise

By Michael A. Smith, MD


Out of the 17 heart disease risk factors that Life Extension® identifies, high blood pressure could be the worst one.

For instance, a hike in your blood pressure during middle age significantly raises the risk of having a heart attack or stroke during your lifetime, according to a 2011 study conducted at Northwestern Medical Center. What’s the take-home message? Maintain healthy blood pressure.

In the past, we’ve discussed nutrients that can lower blood pressure, like this trinity of nutrients consisting of pomegranate, grape seeds and milk peptides. If you’re struggling with high blood pressure, these nutrients can be very helpful. You should definitely speak with your doctor about them.

But we all know that the first things we need to focus on are diet and exercise. If blood pressure is an issue for you, eating foods rich in calcium, magnesium and potassium, while lower in sodium would be helpful.

And now, new research shows that exercising in shorter sessions throughout your day is actually better for your blood pressure than one long session.

Reduce Blood Pressure with Three 10-Minute Exercise Sessions

Researchers from Arizona State University compared short exercise sessions to one long session and measured the effects on blood pressure within 24 hours. They recruited 11 healthy prehypertensive participants who underwent three randomly assigned exercise regimens, reaching 75% of their resting heart rates each time:

  • Three 10-minute aerobic sessions
  • One continuous 30-minute aerobic session
  • A non-exercise control session
The average systolic pressure (the top number) was significantly lower during the shorter sessions when compared to the other two groups. The reason for this difference is unknown; however, it might have to do with the positive effects on the endothelial cells and vasodilation from increased nitric oxide production with shorter workout sessions.

The researchers concluded, “In prehypertensive individuals, fractionized exercise (three 10-minute sessions) reduces systolic pressure more than one single workout session. Fractionized exercise may be a viable and effective exercise alternative to continuous exercise for cardiovascular risk reduction.”

Circuit Training is an Advanced Option

Circuit training is a tough workout. But a modified circuit, utilizing 10-minute sessions is something more manageable for most of us. We like circuit training because it’s a form of aerobic and resistance exercises, engaging all major muscle groups.

The end result of circuit training is cardiovascular conditioning and improved muscle strength and endurance. And, according to the latest research findings, a modified circuit consisting of three 10-minute sessions can reduce blood pressure as well.

A typical circuit consists of eight stations. For our modified approach, let’s cut that in half to four stations. If you plan on exercising for two minutes per station with 30 seconds allotted for transitioning to the next station, the circuit will take you just about 10 minutes to complete.

Here are the stations we suggest:

  • 10-20 Squat thrusts x three repetitions – 2 minutes
  • Move to next station – 30 seconds
  • 10-20 Walking push-ups x three repetitions – 2 minutes
  • Move to next station – 30 seconds
  • 10-20 Stability balls crunches x three repetitions – 2 minutes
  • Move to next station – 30 seconds
  • Jogging in place – 2 minutes
  • Recover time
Repeat the circuit two more times, ideally throughout your day. If at all possible, you could perform one 10-minute circuit in the morning, a second one at mid-day and the last one at night.

We suggest following the circuit three times a week. Your goal is to reach at least 70%–75% of your maximum heart rate.

Here’s how to calculate 70% of your maximum heart rate:
(220 – Age) x 0.75 = 70% maximum heart rate

If all of this seems like too much, that’s okay. Keep it simple. Three 10-minute sessions on a treadmill, bike (stationary or not) or an elliptical trainer will also work just fine.

Please note: Do not start any exercise program without your doctor’s approval. This is especially true for circuit training which can be physically demanding.

Your Blood Pressure Lowering Plan

So when you consider that a hike in your blood pressure during middle age significantly increases your risk of a heart attack or a stroke, we need to do everything in our power to prevent it. So we think the following steps will get you started:

  1. Eat calcium, magnesium and potassium rich foods and watch your sodium intake — no more than 2.4 grams a day.
  2. Exercise using the three 10-minute sessions, three times a week.
  3. Consider supplementing with pomegranate, grape seeds and milk proteins.
Good luck!

References:

  1. Circulation. 2012;125:37-44 published online before print December 19 2011, doi:10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.110.002774
  2. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2012 Jul 6. (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22776874)

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1 comments:

Women And High Blood Pressure said...

Women and high blood pressure are at a higher percent of developing heart attack and coronary heart disease by about 25%.

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