So exercise seems to be a magic pill that confers a myriad of benefits across physical, mental and cognitive health - only if it were a pill we could just swallow. But why does engaging in physical activities help lower blood pressure, and why so many of us are not getting enough exercise?
How does exercise help lower your blood pressure?
Physical activities strengthen the heart. A stronger heart does less work with less force to pump blood through the body, reducing the pressure exerted on the arteries when the heart contracts. This pressure is the systolic pressure, the upper number in a blood pressure reading. Exercise can benefit heart function even in middle-aged individuals who have previously lived a sedentary lifestyle.
Doing exercise also lowers the stiffness of blood vessels, making blood flows more easily and reducing the impedance, and therefore the pressure, from each pulse. Ideally blood pressure should be no higher than 120/80mmHg according to the guideline from the heart and stroke foundation. The risks for cardiovascular events and related diseases are markedly reduced for every 10 unit drop on the systolic pressure reading.
What kind of exercise?
The short answer is: have your pick! Even standing for minutes at a time throughout a workday can improve blood pressure than sitting. Although intense exercises may temporarily raise blood pressure, in the long run the benefits on cardiovascular health may outweigh the temporary spike. Consult with your doctor, however, if you have a special medical condition and about which type of exercise you could benefit from as part of your blood pressure management.
But exercise is the last thing I wanna do at the end of the day.
There is no easy fix to overcoming the challenges of making exercise a habit. More often though the barriers are within us: lack of time, the perpetual “next week” mentality, always some Netflix shows to catch up on, the fear of being judged by others at the gym, and worries about the discomfort from working out.
Start by identifying whether you do have these thoughts and then adopt some new ways to engage with them. Consider what some experts have to say from their TED talks. Developing an exercise routine is not so daunting a goal when you have overcome the negative thoughts in yourself.
DISCLAIMER: THE CONTENT AND INFORMATION IN THIS POST SHOULD NOT BE CONSIDERED AS PROFESSIONAL ADVICE OR REPLACE THE ADVICE AND RECOMMENDATIONS FROM YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDERS. TALK TO YOUR DOCTOR IF YOU HAVE QUESTIONS ABOUT YOUR HEALTH.