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Hypertension

Physical inactivity is directly responsible for 5-13% of high blood pressure (FYSS 31)

A single exercise session leads to a reduction in blood pressure lasting up to one day. In order to maintain this reduction, physical activity needs to be a regular part of your life.

Prevention

Inactive individuals have a 30-50% greater risk of developing high blood pressure (Whelton 2002)

The more physical activity you do, and the fitter you are, the lower your risk of high blood pressure (Chase 2009; FYSS 31)

Treatment

Exercise and lifestyle change is the first line treatment for blood pressure and should be part of the treatment for everyone with high blood pressure (NICE)

The average reduction in your blood pressure that can be expected with regular exercise is 3-10mmHg in systolic (the top number) and 2-6mmHg diastolic (the bottom number) (Cornellissen 2013)

To put this into context a 2mmHg reduction in systolic blood pressure leads to a 7% reduction in death from heart disease and 10% reduction in death from stroke (Lancet 2002)

Exercise can reduce your need to take medicines (ASH/ISH 2014) and even works if your blood pressure is very hard to control (Dimeo 2012).

Comparisons

Regular physical activity reduces your risk of death by three to four times more than common blood pressure medications including ACE-inhibitors, diuretics, Beta-blockers and calcium channel blockers (Brooks 2012).

Advice

If you are on blood pressure medication it is safe and desirable to exercise.

The best blood pressure medications to take if you are exercising regularly are ACE-inhibitors, with the next best being calcium channel blockers – discuss this with your doctor if you think you might need to change.

You should avoid exercise if your resting blood pressure is uncontrolled or greater than 180/100mmHg. In this case you should see your doctor to control your blood pressure better (BACPR).

Aerobic and resistance exercise reduce your blood pressure and so it is best to try and do both. However: (ACSM; BACPR; FYSS)

  • Avoid very strenuous resistance exercise such as lifting very heavy weights
  • Be careful if doing exercises lying down – get up slowly you are at risk of fainting.

Further resources for Healthcare Professionals

Motivate to Move – Cardiorespiratory Health
FYSS - Hypertension