Exercise and hypertension (high blood pressure): how one can help the other.

I came across this article (click here) about hypertension (high blood pressure) this morning.  In my work I regularly come across people with hypertension, so here is some key information about it…

Reading blood pressure

Currently, hypertension is defined as having a sustained blood pressure of over 140/90.  According to the NHS 40% of adults in England suffer from hypertension and all available evidence shows that your lifestyle plays a significant role in regulating your blood pressure. Risk factors for high blood pressure include:

  • Age
  • Excessive alcohol consumption
  • Poor diet
  • Lack of exercise
  • Obesity.

Of those risk factors, only one of them is out of our control (age, in case you couldn’t guess which one).  All the others are a result of the choices we make…we choose to drink too much, eat badly, not exercise and get fat.

And that is great news!  Because that means we just need to choose to change these things!  

Click here for 10 simple rules to improve everybodys diet.

Click here to find out about improving your exercise levels.

Click here to find out about losing excess bodyfat.

But here are some specific guidelines for people who suffer from hypertension:


  • Reduce blood pressure
  • Reduce risks of chronic heart disease
  • Increase physical activity levels
  • Reduce bodyfat levels

Types of exercise

  • For aerobic exercise, choose large muscle group activities such as walking, cycling, rowing, stepping, group exercise classes, swimming.
  • For resistance exercises, perform them in a circuit fashion.  This means do a single set of the first exercise, then move directly onto the first set of the next exercise etc.  Once you have performed 1 set of each resistance exercise, loop back to the beginning and do the second set in the same fashion.

Things to avoid

  • Holding your breath, especially during resistance exercises.  This can spike your blood pressure in a few seconds.  So keep breathing steadily all the time.
  • Isometric contractions.  This means holding your muscles tight in one position for a period of a few seconds or more.  Make sure your body keeps moving all the time.  Be aware that gripping a bar/weight/object tightly is a form of isometric contraction…so keep a light, loose grip on any equipment you may be holding.
  • Overhead resistance work.  This one is dependant on the person.  Some people can do this, while it makes others feel dizzy/faint.  If you are one of these people, avoid it.
  • Decline exercises.  These are ones where your head is below the height of your body.

How often

  • Aerobic exercises should be done 3-7 days per week.  Start with however often you feel comfortable with, but gradually progress to trying to do some every day.
  • Resistance exercises should be done 2-3 times per week.

How long for

  • For aerobic exercises, 30-60 minutes.  Choose steady, continuous activities instead of short, intermittent bursts.
  • For resistance exercises, choose 10-15 reps for 1-3 circuits.

How intense

  • For aerobic exercises, low to moderate intensity.  Aim to be comfortably out of breath and still able to hold a conversation with someone.  For the technically minded, your heart rate should be between 40-70% of maximum.
  • For resistance exercises, keep intensity low.  Remember, the aim is not to have you gritting your teeth and struggling to push a weight, but to keep your body moving in steady, continuous movements.

What next

Once you find a workout too easy:

  1. increase duration (make it last longer)
  2. increase frequency (do it more often)
  3. increase intensity (make it harder)

in that order!

And as always, if you live in and around the Skipton area, feel free to contact me for one to one coaching.