4 Blood-Pressure-Lowering Workouts
Although not every form of exercise might be right for you, there are a number of ways you can stay active to keep your blood pressure down. Here are four options:
1. Go for a Swim.
Both Olivencia and Parker say swimming is a good, low-impact form of cardio that’s accessible to most people, especially seniors. A study published in The American Journal of Cardiology found that swimming reduced systolic blood pressure by an average of nine points in 60-year-olds who engaged in swimming three or four times a week over the course of 12 weeks.
2. Take a Walk.
Parker says that a lot of people who are intimidated by the idea of a gym workout can just go for a simple brisk walk. And research backs this. One study published in 2013 in the journal Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis, and Vascular Biology looked at the benefits of walking on heart health. By looking at data on 33,060 runners in the National Runners’ Health Study and 15,045 walkers in the National Walkers’ Health Study, the researchers found that the same amount of energy that a person uses for moderate-intensity brisk walking and vigorous-intensity running actually resulted in similar reductions in high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes risks.
Over a six-year time frame, it was found that walkers had a 7.2 percent risk reduction in hypertension, a 7.0 percent risk reduction in high cholesterol, 12.3 percent risk reduction in diabetes.
Parker currently leads a group of seven women, including his mom, for a walk every Saturday morning. “We walk about 1.5 to 2 miles each week,” he says, adding that exercising in a group is especially beneficial. “Exercising with two or three other people on a regular basis makes it less of a chore and more of a fun social thing.”
3. Ride a Bike.
Parker says that a morning bike ride is a big part of his routine and one that he emphasizes with his clients.
“Something like a simple 30 to 35-minute bike ride can get your heart pumping, could get you outside, and could boost your cardiovascular health in a fun way,” he adds.
Olivencia adds that fitness routines coupling aerobic exercise, like biking, with resistance training, like lifting weights, could reap benefits for people dealing with hypertension.
Back in 2016, the American Heart Association highlighted two separate studies, which were published concurrently, looking at the effects of biking on heart health. One of the studies, published in the journal Circulation, looked at 45,000 Danish adults between ages 50 and 65 who biked as part of their day-to-day routines for both recreation and commuting. After 20 years of follow-up, the researchers found that cyclists had about 11 to 18 percent fewer heart attacks than those who had never hopped on bike for fun or to get to work.
The second of the studies, published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, showed that 20,000 Swedish adults in their forties through sixties who biked to work were less likely than those who didn’t bike to have obesity, high cholesterol, prediabetes, and high blood pressure. These, of course, are all major risk factors for heart disease. The people were studied over 10 years, and their commuting habits, cholesterol levels, weight changes, blood pressure, and blood glucose were all recorded.
At the start of the study, these people were reported to be 15 percent less likely to have obesity, 13 percent less likely to have high blood pressure, 15 percent less likely to have high cholesterol, and 12 percent less likely to have prediabetes or diabetes compared with those who didn’t bike. People who continued biking or took up biking over the course of the study had a collective 39 percent lower risk of obesity, an 11 percent lower risk of high blood pressure, an 18 percent lower risk of diabetes, and a 20 percent lower risk of having high cholesterol at the end of the follow-up period.
4. Hit the Gym.
The gym is a great place to go if you’re looking for exercise options. Most contain a mixture of cardio and strength-training machines that you can adjust to your particular skill level.
Olivencia suggests doing a mixture of upper body, lower body, and core exercises to maximize the circulation of your blood and the number of muscles you’re working out.
For people who are 50 and up, a safe practice is a “peripheral heart action system,” Olivencia says. It alternates lower body exercises with upper body exercises and core. This method helps with high blood pressure because it helps the blood circulate to different areas of the body to avoid localizing. “At the same time, you’re able to create a safe circuit style of training, which we know is great for fat loss and blood sugar control,” he explains.
Olivencia adds that older people looking for a safe workout should avoid the supine position for extended periods of times. This means you don’t want to be on your back, like while doing a bench press, for too long. In your workouts, “alternate positions to avoid blood from localizing and the possibility of getting light-headed from a sudden change in positioning,” he adds.
Both trainers note that people should consult with their doctors about the best way to lower their blood pressure and which exercises are safe to try