Nearly half of adults in the United States have hypertension or high blood pressure (BP). High blood pressure is a condition that can slowly damage your body over time. It can cause disabilities, kidney failure, and stroke, and is often a precursor to heart disease. Cardiovascular disease, heart attacks, and strokes kill more people in the U.S. than anything else. While lifestyle changes and medication can help you control high blood pressure, studies show that exercise helps you lower your blood pressure, especially after age 40.
What is blood pressure?
Most of us are pretty familiar with what blood pressure is. After all, you’ve likely had it taken every time you’ve visited your doctor. And, rightly so. Doctors use your blood pressure to measure the pressure of blood pushing against the walls of your arteries.
Because arteries carry blood from your heart to other parts of your body, keeping this number under control is vital to helping you reach and or maintain optimal health.
But here is something you may not know about your number. Your blood pressure rises and falls throughout the day naturally. As a general rule, you can expect to get a lower blood pressure reading right after you wake up in the morning versus a reading you’d get after a busy day at work.
Blood pressure numbers become a red flag when they remain high. Consistently high blood pressure, if left unchecked, can cause health problems and damage your heart.
How exercise can help you lower your BP
Simply put, any type of regular physical activity makes your heart and body stronger. When your heart is stronger it can pump more blood with less effort. That means, over time, you’re putting less pressure on your arteries and it effectively lowers your blood pressure.
Another reason exercise helps your BP is that it helps you maintain a healthy weight. That factor in itself can make a huge impact on blood pressure! Studies show that losing just 5 pounds can help lower your overall blood pressure number.
The best practice to get the greatest results? Log around 30 minutes of moderate aerobic activity a day. Factoring in that you might miss a day or two, that equals around 150 minutes of moderate activity a week (or 75 minutes of vigorous activity).
Top three exercises to help lower blood pressure
Here are three easy exercises you can start today to help you get your high blood pressure under control. The good news is that they don’t really require any expensive equipment to get started, making them easy to add to your daily routine.
We all know that stress can impact your blood pressure. Thankfully, there are some easy solutions to help manage that. The American Yoga Association states that one of the quickest ways to lower stress is to improve your breathing and posture, both of which can be accomplished through yoga poses and deep breathing. Numerous studies have been done to back up this claim as well. Across the board, these studies show that yoga can have a significant impact on lowering your blood pressure diastolic score, which is most critical for your overall health.
Top Yoga Poses for Lowering Blood Pressure
Here are some beginning yoga poses that can help focus your breathing and improve your flexibility and posture. These are great poses to start with, but if you’re up for the challenge you can move on to intermediate and advanced poses.
Bridge pose is a minor backbend performed in a reclining position. This exercise provides a range of benefits, including lowering stress, fighting fatigue, lessening headaches, and improving conditions such as high blood pressure and sinusitis.
To do bridge pose, lie face up with your knees bent. Position the feet so that the lower legs are perpendicular to the floor. With the arms relaxed at the sides, lift the buttocks and lower back toward the ceiling. Some people prefer to place a yoga block between the knees during this pose. Holding the position for 30 to 60 seconds is ideal.
Corpse pose is one of yoga’s best-known poses and is often used to end sequences. Corpse pose is basically lying on one’s back with the arms relaxed at the sides. It is customary to allow the legs and hips to roll slightly outwards while resting in corpse pose.
Lying in corpse pose is an excellent opportunity to practice deep breathing exercises. Breathing deeply into the diaphragm brings more oxygen into the blood and strengthens the muscles involved in respiration. Over time, breathing exercises can improve focus and improve serenity. It is easy to look at one’s abdomen to ensure that the diaphragm is moving while lying in corpse pose.
Legs Up the Wall Pose
Legs-up-the-Wall Pose (Viparita Karani) is known for helping you relax and looks exactly how it sounds. It helps improve circulation and can help reduce swelling lower extremities by redirecting lymph and other fluids from your ankles, knees, and pelvic organs to your upper body and head.
To get into Legs-up-the-Wall, sit on the floor facing a wall. Lower your shoulders and head to the floor, then stretch your legs up the wall with your feet hip-distance apart. If you need to, adjust your position so that your tailbone is as close to the wall as you’re comfortable with (it does not need to touch the wall). Relax your arms to your sides with your palms up, then relax your shoulders and legs completely. Relax and breathe through the pose for about 10 minutes, then slowly bend your knees and roll to your side before standing up.
Seated Forward Bend Pose
The Seated Forward Bend Pose is another great pose that helps the body relax and release stress. This pose is also great for stretching your spine, shoulders, and hamstrings, and is great for stimulating the liver, kidneys, and digestive system.
To perform the seated forward bend, sit on the edge of a folded blanket with your legs stretched out in front of you. Press your heels away from your body and start with your fingertips on the floor by your hips. Slowly inhale, then as you exhale lean forward and walk your hands along the outside of each leg as far as you can reach. If you can, hold the sides of your feet with your hands. Hold the pose for 1-3 minutes, lifting and lengthening your torso with each inhale while relaxing and releasing into the stretch more with each exhale. You’ll want to make sure you maintain a flat back during this pose, so resist the urge to push your head and shoulders down to your shins.
#2: Brisk Walking or Hiking
Another set-your-own-pace aerobic activity can be walking and hiking. The nice thing about either of these activities is that it’s hard to get bored with it since you can choose to walk inside on a treadmill or outside in the fresh air. You can also change up your neighborhood route or choose a different trail to keep the activity fresh and focused on enjoying the moment.
How Walking Helps Lower Your BP
Walking around the block or on your treadmill does differ from taking a hike in the woods. Studies have found that three 10-minute walks or one 30-minute walk will likely do the trick to help lower your blood pressure numbers. You can also try to jump up the number of steps you take a day and track it on your personal fitness app. 10,000 steps a day is a good goal to start with and one that has shown many health benefits.
Hiking is a different beast because you engage so many muscles to climb a road on an incline or scale a hill or mountain. But the effort pays off tenfold and the views are often amazing. As for the effect on your blood pressure, many studies show that physical activity like hiking can lower blood pressure by up to 10 points over time!
Weight training is another great way to lower your blood pressure because of how many muscles it engages and the resulting increase in blood circulation. While you’re lifting, your blood pressure may naturally go up for a bit. But overall, the improvement to your fitness and stamina will help your body tenfold. This results in lower blood pressure, plus it will help increase your metabolism throughout the day.
Best Weightlifting Tips for Lowering Blood Pressure
The best way to lower your BP through weightlifting is to lift moderate weights at controlled speeds. But, don’t go too slow. Super slow lifting speeds can cause your blood pressure to elevate beyond where your body functions best.
It’s also a good idea to rest a few minutes between sets. This helps keep your BP balanced while you’re working out.
How to work more exercise and activity into your day
Not used to exercising? Take it slow and set small micro-goals for yourself. That could mean taking five-minute stretch-and-move breaks every hour if you sit a lot during the day, or doing something as simple as adding three 10-minute walks to your day. You can even do exercises right at your desk! You’ll be surprised how fast you will start noticing the difference.
As you get stronger, challenge yourself to do more for longer. But most importantly, remember to have fun with it. Exercise doesn’t have to be something you hate. Aerobic activity is any activity that increases your heart and breathing rates. That means dancing, cleaning the house, doing yard work, gardening, playing sports, and riding your bike are all fair game.
Fast Facts About Blood Pressure (BP)
As with all health numbers, blood pressure numbers vary for everyone. For most adults, a normal blood pressure reading is 120/80.
What does the top BP number mean?
The top number is your systolic BP, which is measuring the amount of pressure your blood is exerting against your artery walls when your heart beats.
What does the bottom BP number mean?
The bottom number is your diastolic BP, which is measuring how much pressure your blood is exerting against your artery walls while the heart is resting between beats.
What are the different levels of blood pressure?
The American Heart Association has defined five ranges of blood pressure categories: Normal (less than 120/80 mm Hg), Elevated (120-129 systolic and less than 80 mm Hg diastolic), Hypertension Stage 1 ( 130-139 systolic or 80-89 mm Hg diastolic), Hypertension Stage 2 (140/90 mm Hg or higher), and Hypertensive crisis (180/120 mm Hg or higher). If you have elevated blood pressure or are in hypertension, talk to your doctor or AlignLife Chiropractor about incorporating more heart-healthy steps into your daily life so you can get your numbers in check.
How can chiropractic help lower blood pressure?
As with any misalignment or subluxation that is causing nerve interferences in your body, it can also impact your blood pressure. Misalignments of the spine can also cause arteries to contract, negatively affecting blood flow, which would, in turn, cause higher blood pressure. Chiropractic adjustments improve blood flow throughout the body, help your heart and arteries work more efficiently, and help relieve tension for sore or injured muscles – all of which can impact your blood pressure.
Want to see if your AlignLife Chiropractor can help?
Simply schedule an appointment at an AlignLife Clinic near you and let’s chat about how we can help you reach your best health.