Blood pressure is the force of blood against the wall of arteries. Your heart pumps blood around your body through a network of tubing called arteries. Every time your heart pumps it forces blood through these arteries and into smaller blood vessels called capillaries. The force that your heart produces in your arteries when it pumps is called your blood pressure.
Blood pressure rises and falls during the day. High blood pressure happens when blood pressure stays elevated over time. When this happens, blood vessels become narrow or stiff, forcing the heart to pump harder to push blood through the body.
High blood pressure (also known as hypertension) is a silent killer — it often causes no symptoms, even if severe. Thus one can have high blood pressure for years without knowing it.
Uncontrolled high blood pressure is a serious problem because it can damage many organs in the body. It makes the heart work too hard and contributes to atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries). It increases the risk of heart disease and stroke; and can result in other conditions, such as congestive heart failure (and even blindness).
Exercise makes your heart stronger. A stronger heart can pump more blood more efficiently. And the less your heart has to work, the less force, or pressure, that’s exerted on your arteries.
Exercise may also improve the condition of arteries and veins, which can enhance blood flow.
What Studies Show:
• IN a US National Institutes of Health conference, it was revealed that aerobic exercise reduces resting (non-exercise) blood pressure in people who have hypertension by an average of 11 points off the top number and 9 points off the bottom number. That could be enough to lower high blood pressure to normal (The Physician and Sports Medicine, June 1996).
• BECOMING more active can lower your blood pressure by as much as 4-9 points — the same reduction in blood pressure delivered by some anti-hypertensive medications, but without the side effects (US Mayo Clinic article, 12 August 2004).
• REGULAR physical activity also helps you maintain a normal weight or lose excess pounds. Weight loss can have a powerful impact on blood pressure, reducing it by as much as 20 points. In fact, once you get moving, you might even be able to reduce some of your blood pressure medications, with your doctor’s
• JUST 30 minutes of moderate exercise, such as brisk walking, every day will produce enormous benefits. Exercise should lower your systolic pressure by 4-9 mm Hg (Harvard, 2003).
Exercise can be important for people with borderline hypertension, and when combined with other lifestyle modifications such as a change in diet and quitting smoking, can drop pressure enough to keep some people from having to use medication to control blood pressure,” says hypertension expert Dr Samuel Mann, an associate professor of medicine at New York Weill Cornell Medical Centre (study in Annals of Internal Medicine).
Read more about How Exercise Heals Various Diseases, How Effective Are Yoga, Meditation, Tai Chi and Qigong and How to Exercise for Different Illnesses in the CAP Guide.