Can Exercise Aid in Blood Pressure Reduction?

PLN expert coach explains how exercise can reduce blood pressure.

Published April 6, 2023

4 minute read

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Can Exercise Aid in Blood Pressure Reduction? 

When you have high blood pressure, your blood vessel walls become unusually tense and constricted. This increased tension causes your heart to work harder than it needs to, which can contribute to cardiovascular disease and other complications over time. 

High blood pressure is defined as having a systolic blood pressure greater than or equal to 130 mmHg or a diastolic blood pressure greater than or equal to 80 mmHg, as opposed to having a typical blood pressure of 120/80 mmHg or less.

When left untreated, the harm done to your circulatory system by high blood pressure is a significant contributing factor to heart attacks, strokes, and other major health threats. According to the CDC, high blood pressure affects nearly half of all people and is responsible for nearly 500,000 deaths in the United States each year. 

While hypertension can be frightening, small changes to your everyday routine can make a significant difference in lowering and maintaining healthy blood pressure. One of the best methods to accomplish this is to incorporate regular exercise into your routine. Remember that it may take several months to see the complete benefits of exercise.

What effect does exercise have on your blood pressure? 

While exercise can cause your blood pressure to rise as your heart works harder to pump more blood to your muscles, keep in mind that this is only transient. A consistent increase in activity level can take up to three months to successfully lower your blood pressure. 

According to the Mayo Clinic, exercise can reduce blood pressure by 4 to 12 mmHg in the diastolic and 3 to 6 mmHg in the arterial. It accomplishes this by strengthening your heart and allowing it to function more efficiently, allowing it to pump more blood with less effort. Exercise also aids in the maintenance of a healthy weight and the reduction of tension, both of which are major causes of high blood pressure. 

Should I contact my doctor before engaging in physical activity if I have high blood pressure? 

Previously, it was recommended that anyone beginning a new fitness regimen consult with their doctor first. This recommendation is no longer generally required for healthy people. 

However, you should always consult your doctor if you have a history of high blood pressure or another preexisting disease such as: 

  • Cardiovascular illness 
  • Lung Illness 
  • Diabetes 
  • Previous cardiac arrest 
  • Early family medical history of heart-related problems (before 55 for men and 65 for women) 
  • During exercise, discomfort or soreness in the jaw, neck, chest, or arms 

What kinds of fitness should I include in my routine? 

Blood pressure is typically reduced by a mix of aerobic exercise and resistance training. Aerobic exercise (also known as 'cardio') is defined by the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) as "any activity that uses large muscle groups, can be maintained continuously, and is rhythmic in nature." 

Resistance training, on the other hand, is defined as any action that involves working your muscles against an opposing force. These two kinds of exercises, when combined, help to lower your overall blood pressure. 
It is also not essential to exert maximum effort in either activity. You can spread out your aerobic and strength training throughout the day. This provides for days off in between workouts. Train better, not harder!
What about other types of exercise? Running on a machine or lifting weights in the gym is not for everyone. That's fine! If your chosen activity is defined by the ACSM, it goes toward lowering your blood pressure. Any exercise is preferable to none. 

What types of exercises help to reduce blood pressure? 

Whatever exercises you choose, it's critical that you appreciate them. This will help ensure that you can continue to incorporate exercise into your regimen in the future. After all, blood pressure normally rises as we age.

Aerobic Workout 

The American Heart Association suggests getting at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise per week, or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic exercise. This can be done in 30-minute increments at least 5 days per week, or in 10-minute increments several times per day throughout the week. 

Aerobic exercise can include the following activities:  

  • Running 
  • Cycling 
  • Hiking 
  • Swimming 
  • Dancing 
  • Walking

Resistance Exercise 

Newer research indicates that resistance training with bands or weight lifting can be used in addition to aerobic exercise to lower blood pressure even further. During your training sessions, you should strive to complete 2 to 4 sets of 8 to 12 repetitions for each of the major muscle groups. Resistance training practices should be spread out throughout the week to minimize muscle soreness. 

  • Gym weight equipment can be used for resistance training. (chest press, shoulder press) 
  • Free weights (dumbbells, barbells) 
  • Freehand motions with resistance bands (squats, push-ups, bicep curls) 

Take Your Time 

If you're new to exercise, remember to go at your own speed. When you're comfortable with your new routine, you can raise the intensity or number of repetitions. Instead of making exercise a chore, begin slowly and eventually incorporate it into your daily routine! Stick to a strategy that works for you, no matter how much or how little you do.

Finally, it's essential to remember that blood pressure naturally rises as we age. Maintaining normal blood pressure levels can help reduce the risk of different diseases such as stroke and cardiovascular disease. As a result, staying busy at all stages of life is critical.


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