5 physical activities proven to reduce high blood pressure

High blood pressure, aka hypertension, occurs when the force of your blood pumping against your arteries is consistently too high. Left untreated, it can lead to heart disease, stroke, and kidney failure.  

Unfortunately, this is an all-too-common condition. In fact, over 5.3 million Canadians suffer from high blood pressure. What’s even scarier is that the symptoms of high blood pressure can easily go undetected for years. As a result, many people don’t even know they have it.

The good news is that physical activity can help in the prevention, reduction, and management of high blood pressure by reducing the stiffness of blood vessels and allowing blood to flow more freely.

5 PHYSICAL ACTIVITIES THAT REDUCE BLOOD PRESSURE

Just about any kind of physical activity will improve your heart health in some way, but here are some specific activities that have been proven to lower your blood pressure.

1. Running

Running is probably the first activity that comes to mind when we think of physical activity and heart health. It’s probably the most heavily researched too.

One large study, which followed 33,060 American runners for six years, found that running regularly every week reduced their risk of high blood pressure by 4.2%. Even more impressive were the noted decreases in cholesterol (7%), diabetes (12.3%), and coronary heart disease (9.3%) risks. The more they ran each week, the better their blood pressure stats.

For more on running, please visit: #80 – Running.

2. Walking

Walking is one of the easiest things you can do to reduce high blood pressure. All you need is a good pair of shoes. Because it’s more sustainable than some other activities, it’s a great choice for beginners or anyone who struggles to stay motivated.

A large American study published in Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis, and Vascular Biology compared the impact of running versus walking on hypertension, cholesterol, and diabetes risk in adults ages 18 to 80. The researchers discovered that the walking group decreased their hypertension risk by 7.2%!

For an added bonus, bring your dog. Some reports show that owners of pets, particularly dogs, have a decreased risk for heart disease. The two main reasons are that dogs need to be walked every day (just like you!) and that they offer social support, which is important for making healthy behaviour changes.

For more on walking, please visit: #19 – Walking.

3. Yoga

Yoga is an ancient practice that has many physical, mental, and spiritual benefits.

A 2012 review published in the journal of Holistic Nursing Practice that looked at the effects of yoga in reducing hypertension found that regularly practicing yoga a few times a weeks not only reduced blood pressure, but also improved glucose and cholesterol levels.

In addition, yoga is also great for stress-relief, a major contributor to high blood pressure.

For more on yoga, please visit: #27 – Yoga.

4. Swimming

There’s nothing more refreshing than jumping into a pool or lake. It’s a fun year-round activity for people of all ages.

No matter which stroke you prefer, swimming can help alleviate blood pressure issues. A recent publication in the American Journal of Cardiology examined the impact of swimming among adults with hypertension or pre-hypertension. Participants (over the age of 50) were divided into two groups: half were asked to swim three to four times a week, working up to 45 minutes of swimming each time, and the other half were asked to engage in relaxation exercises.

Over a 12-week period, adults in the swimming group saw a significant decrease in their blood pressure compared to those in the relaxation group. So, make a splash for increased blood vessel function!

For more on swimming, please visit: #4 – Swimming.

5. Bicycling

Cycling is a sure-fire way to get your heart pumping and blood flowing. It’s also low-impact, so it’s a great option if you have knee problems, and it’s a great way to get to work or school.

A large 10-year Swedish study, which looked at the work commute patterns of 23,732 middle-aged Swedish men and women, found that, compared to people who drove or took the bus, people who biked regularly greatly prevented the onset of heart disease risk factors, including high blood pressure.

Plus, this was even true for people who only recently began biking to work. Their odds of developing high blood pressure were lower as well. It was also found that the longer the daily commute, the better the health outcomes.

For more on cycling, please visit: #2 – Cycling.