In recent years, high blood pressure sufferers, who previously would have been told to avoid exercise, are now being advised to get active. High blood pressure, or hypertension, is defined as a sustained, elevated blood pressure. Although the cause of high blood pressure is often not identified, factors such as genetics, excessive sodium intake, diet, obesity, insulin resistance, physical inactivity and psychological stress are all believed to be implicated.
As some of these factors can be controlled through lifestyle management, working with a trainer can be of great help. Sustained evidence suggests that both systolic and diastolic BP can be lowered by a programme of moderate aerobic exercise.
Unless very severe, hypertension causes no symptoms, however, raised BP over a period of years causes damage to the arteries and places strain on the heart and other organs and is a major risk factor for coronary artery disease, stroke, heart failure, retina and kidney damage. The recommendations for exercising if you have hypertension are as follows :
- Unless previous clearance has been given by a GP, clients with a BP of 180/100mmHg before exercise should NOT be exercising.
- The American College of Sports Medicine suggests that exercising at a lower intensity is at least as effective in lowering BP and is safer than more intense exercise.
- Include muscular endurance activities - low resistance and increased reps are best.
- A circuit style approach allowing approx 30 seconds rest is desirable.
- Avoid isometric exercise such as the 'Bullworker'.
- Use good breathing techniques, with no breath holding during resistance work.
- Heart rate and BP is elevated when the upper body musculature is used compared to the lower body. Therefore, intensive arm work (particularly over the head) should be avoided.