Check in with your doctor first if you're not already active now. They'll make sure you're ready for exercise. Since an active lifestyle is good for your blood pressure, your doctor will likely be all for it.
You don't need to go to a gym. You just need to be active enough that you are breathing harder and making your heart beat a little faster. That includes brisk walking, jogging, swimming, biking, lifting weights, or doing yard work.
To pick an activity, two good questions to ask yourself are:
- What sounds like fun?
- Would you rather exercise in a group, or on your own?
What Type of Exercise Is Best?
There are three basic types of exercise:
- Cardiovascular, or aerobic, exercise can help lower your blood pressure and make your heart stronger. Examples include walking, jogging, jumping rope, bicycling (stationary or outdoor), cross-country skiing, skating, rowing, high- or low-impact aerobics, swimming, and water aerobics.
- Strength training builds strong muscles that help you burn more calories throughout the day. It’s also good for your joints and bones.
- Stretching makes you more flexible, helps you move better, and helps prevent injury.
How Often Should You Exercise?
Go for moderate activity, like brisk walking, at least 30 minutes a day, at least 5 days a week. If you’re short on time, vigorous activity, like jogging, gives you the same benefit in 20 minutes, 3 to 4 days a week.
If you’re not active today, gradually work up to this amount of exercise. If it takes you a few weeks to get there, that’s absolutely fine.
First, warm up. A 5- to 10-minute warm-up helps your body get moving and helps prevent injury.
Next, step up the intensity. Don't overdo it -- you should still be able to talk to someone while you're exercising. But if you’re able to sing, step it up a bit to make sure you’re getting the most out of your exercise.
Lastly, cool down. When you're done exercising, don't stop suddenly. Just slow down for a few minutes. This is especially important for someone with high blood pressure.
3 Ways to Stick With Exercise
- Make it fun! You'll be more likely to stick with it.
- Schedule exercise into your daily routine. Plan when you're going to exercise and put it on your calendar.
- Find an exercise "buddy." This will help you stay motivated and enjoy it more.
Is It Safe?
Being active is one of the best things you can do for your blood pressure. Ask your doctor if there are any limits on what you can try.
When you exercise, notice how your body feels. It may take a while before your body gets used to it. That's normal.
It's also normal to breathe harder and to sweat, and for your heart to beat faster, when you're doing aerobic exercise.
But if you're feeling very short of breath, or if you feel like your heart is beating too fast or irregularly, slow down or rest.
Call your doctor or seek emergency treatment immediately if these symptoms do not go away quickly, or if it happens again.