Text: 7 ways to safely exercise with high blood pressure Photo: a woman having her blood pressure taken.

7 ways to safely exercise with high blood pressure

Text: 7 ways to safely exercise with high blood pressure
Photo: a woman having her blood pressure taken.

If you have high blood pressure you may be wondering how to exercise safely, especially if you’ve been told that being more active can be beneficial to you.

So, here’s my guide on how to exercise safely with high blood pressure. But remember, this is a guide only and not medical advice. As with all health conditions make sure you talk to your doctor first before starting any new exercise regime.

Know your numbers

If you have been told you have high blood pressure then it is good to get to know your numbers.

High blood pressure (aka hypertension) is any reading above 140/90 mmHg, very high is a reading over 180/100 mmHg.

If you have a reading of 200/110 mmHg you must see a doctor as soon as possible as this is classed as extremely high and may be an indication of other serious health issues.

Blood Pressure UK  has a very helpful page on how to decipher the numbers and what it all means.

Once you know your numbers you can discuss with your doctor to make sure getting more active is safe for you.

It is worth noting that physical activity will cause your blood pressure to rise for a short period of time. For most people it returns to normal when you stop the activity. But this is why, as a coach who specialises in long term health conditions, I will always ask for a referral from your GP to ensure that exercise is safe for you.

General heart health

For most people with high blood pressure you can safely follow the same exercise guidelines for general heart health. You can read more about those guidelines here.

But there are some more specific considerations. Like what type of exercise you should do, what you should avoid and other general lifestyle changes you can make. All of which will help you manage, and possibly reduce, your high blood pressure.

Be active throughout the day

It’s not just about the exercise sessions themselves. Afterall, they may only take up less than an hour a day. It’s what we do in between the sessions that really matter.

Avoid sitting down for long periods of time. If you work at a desk then set an alarm for every hour so you can get up and move. Or if you are in an office, instead of sending an email or phoning a colleague, get up and walk to talk to them.

If you spend your evenings watching tele, stand up and move during the ad breaks or in between shows.

These may not seem like big things, but these little changes can make a difference.

And the more daily activity you can add, the better.

Emphasis on aerobic exercise

Although strength and resistance training is recommended for heart health, if you have high blood pressure than you should place a bigger emphasis on aerobic activities.

That means, if you only have time to do 3 workouts a week, then 2 of those should be aerobic.

However, I strongly recommend to my clients that they do some sort of aerobic activity every day. This can be anything from cycling, brisk walking, swimming, dancing, tennis or jogging/running at a moderate level.

Aiming for 15 minutes daily is a great start and most people have the time to do this. But if you can, 30-60 minutes a day is ideal. This can be broken down in to shorter periods over the day.

Warm up, cool down

With high blood pressure a warm up and cool down routine is an essential part of exercising safely.

Warming up properly allows the body to prepare for the activity ahead. You get the blood flowing, the joints moving, the muscles warm and the heart ready.

By gradually increasing movement and the intensity, a warm up allows your body to adjust and get ready for exercise. If you have high blood pressure then it is a good idea to have a slightly longer warm up so you are fully prepared for your workout.

And the same goes for the cool down, but in reverse.

Allowing for a longer cool down where you gradually decrease the intensity allows the heart rate to come down at a slower rate.

So if you are doing a brisk walk or are cycling, for the final few minutes slow down the pace and come to a gradual stop. Then make sure you do some stretches which will help to avoid any muscle injury.

Exercises to avoid

Although most exercises are safe to do if you have high blood pressure, there are some you should avoid.

These are anything that will spike your blood pressure. So avoid sprinting or high intensity intervals which will raise your blood pressure fast.

Likewise any exercises where you hold your breath or your breathing isn’t following a normal pattern.

Isometric exercises where you hold a static position (like planks) and exercises where you move quickly from a low to high position (like burpees) are also out.

You should also avoid exercises where your arms go above your head as this can cause your heart to work harder to get the blood to your arms.

All these exercises have safe alternatives that you can do, so don’t feel like you are restricted.

And I’ve yet to find a person who is disappointed when I say you can’t do burpees!

Food choice is key

In addition to exercise another factor to managing high blood pressure is what you eat.

As well as not smoking and reducing alcohol consumption, changes to what you eat can have a huge impact on your health and well-being.

Things such as increasing the number of fruit and vegetables you eat in a day. Aim for 5 a day and if you already get your 5 a day, see if you can increase it to 8 or 10 portions.

Add more wholegrains to your diet. Swap white rice, pasta and bread for wholegrain varieties.

Also add more beans and legumes. They are full of fibre which can help lower blood pressure and the risk of developing other diseases such as stroke, bowel cancer and type 2 diabetes.

I hope this has addressed some of the concerns you may have about how to safely exercise with high blood pressure.

Exercise and being active can play a big part in managing your blood pressure. If you have high blood pressure and want to start exercising safely to improve you overall health, then get in touch.

As a specialist coach supporting people with long term health conditions, including high blood pressure, I can help you get fitter, stronger and healthy in a safe way. 121 sessions can either be in the Aylesbury and Bicester areas or online via Zoom.

Leave a Comment


Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *