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Exercise and High Blood Pressure (online only)
September 2011
By Karen Collins, MS, RD, CDN

Q: What’s the best kind of exercise to help reduce high blood pressure?

A: Aerobic activity will have the biggest impact on your blood pressure. Depending on your starting level of fitness, you might begin with walking three days a week for 10 or 15 minutes. Every couple weeks add another five minutes a day until you are walking or doing other aerobic activity five to seven days a week for 30 minutes or more. It would be terrific to accumulate 60 minutes of aerobic activity each day, which could come from several blocks of 15 to 20 minutes. Besides walking, other aerobic activities include biking (inside or out), dancing, swimming and active yard work. Once your fitness begins to improve, add strength training to keep from losing muscle, important for overall well-being. You can use inexpensive hand-held weights, elastic resistance bands, or machines at a Y or fitness center. For those with high blood pressure, most experts say that low and moderate activity is more effective (and safer) than vigorous exercise. Those who take beta-blocker medicines to control their blood pressure can’t gauge their activity by their heart rate, so using a scale of how hard it feels like you are working, something that feels “light” to “somewhat hard” is the recommended range. When strength training, lighter weights with more repetitions are better than straining to hoist very heavy weights. The combination of regular moderate activity with healthy eating habits and working to reach and maintain a healthy weight can lower your blood pressure and reduce your need for medicine to control it. Experts says that most healthy people don’t need to check with their doctor before increasing exercise, but for those with high blood pressure, that is the smart thing to do.

The American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) is the cancer charity that fosters research on the relationship of nutrition, physical activity and weight management to cancer risk, interprets the scientific literature and educates the public about the results. It has contributed more than $96 million for innovative research conducted at universities, hospitals and research centers across the country. AICR has published two landmark reports that interpret the accumulated research in the field, and is committed to a process of continuous review. AICR also provides a wide range of educational programs to help millions of Americans learn to make dietary changes for lower cancer risk. Its award-winning New American Plate program is presented in brochures, seminars and on its website, www.aicr.org. AICR is part of the global network of charities that are dedicated to the prevention of cancer. The WCRF global network is led and unified by WCRF International, a membership association which operates as the umbrella organization for the network .The other charities in the WCRF network are World Cancer Research Fund in the UK (www.wcrf-uk.org); Wereld Kanker Onderzoek Fonds in the Netherlands (www.wcrf-nl.org); World Cancer Research Fund Hong Kong (www.wcrf-hk.org); and Fonds Mondial de Recherche contre le Cancer in France (www.fmrc.fr).


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