High blood pressure (hypertension) increases the risk for heart disease, stroke and kidney damage. While numerous medications can treat hypertension, many people would like to control their blood pressure without taking pills. Those who must take medication may want to help it work better. (For mildly elevated blood pressure, above 130/80 but lower than 140/90, lifestyle measures such as diet and exercise may be just as helpful as drugs.) New research should help your efforts to lower your blood pressure with exercise.
Lower Your Blood Pressure with Exercise and DASH Diet:
Previous research has shown that a DASH diet full of vegetables and fruits, low-fat dairy products and whole grains can help lower blood pressure effectively. Regular aerobic exercise can boost the blood pressure-lowering benefits of the DASH diet.
In many cases, you can lower your blood pressure with exercise at least temporarily. Try measuring it before and after a vigorous workout to get an idea of how well your body responds. (People vary.) To get the full benefit of blood pressure control, however, one workout won’t do the job. It will require regular exercise sessions, at least three times a week, of 30 to 45 minutes. That may boost the power of your antihypertensive medicine as well.
When Should You Work Out?
Scientists in Sao Paulo, Brazil, and Oregon, USA, conducted a trial to see whether morning or evening workouts are better to lower your blood pressure with exercise (1). They recruited 50 men with hypertension and assigned them to aerobic exercise training (cycling) in the morning or in the evening. One third of the men were assigned to a 30 minute stretching session. All three groups met three times a week for 10 weeks.
The data show that evening training is the most effective way to lower your blood pressure with exercise. The men who had their cycle class in the evening had significantly lower systolic blood pressure in the clinic (5 to 8 mm lower on average, comparable to most medication effects). Their 24 hour and overnight diastolic pressure was also significantly lower, and they were less likely to have their blood pressure spike in response to an unexpected stress.
Should You Wait Until Evening to Lower Your Blood Pressure with Exercise?
It is helpful to know that aerobic activity later in the day can be more effective, but the most important consideration about exercise is that you find a type of activity you enjoy and a time when you can and will do it. If that means an early morning swim or a midday run, go for it. Let us know how you lower your blood pressure with exercise. You may also wish to listen to our Show 1134: Can You Control Your Blood Pressure Without Drugs?