Walking Workouts for High Blood Pressure

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Exercise can help lower high blood pressure as much as many medications. Regular aerobic exercise such as brisk walking is recommended for people with hypertension by health authorities such as the American Heart Association.

The good news is that you can enjoy a variety of walking workouts, including short, brisk walks, and longer walking sessions to get the desired effects. Strength training, done in addition to aerobic exercise, also has benefits for people with high blood pressure.

Discuss your need for exercise with your doctor and ensure any regimen is appropriate for your personal circumstances and health care needs. Do not change your medications without consulting with your doctor.

Workout Plan

This plan will ensure you get the recommended 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity exercise, as well as strength training two days per week.

Monday: This is a good day to enjoy three 10-minute brisk walking sessions. The start of your workweek can be hectic, so you don't need to overload it. Wind down at the end of the day with a flexibility and stretching routine to ease stress.

Tuesday: Gym day. Combine a 40-minute walking workout outdoors or on the treadmill with a 20-minute strength workout session.

Wednesday: Reduce your stress by planning a stroll through a park or green space. You can make it a brisk walk or a slower, relaxing walk. Enjoy flexibility and stretching routines.

Thursday: Gym day. Combine a 40-minute walking workout and 20-minute strength workout session.

Friday: End the week with three brisk 10-minute workouts. You may want to do one before work, one on a work break, and one at lunch or after work. Now you can relax at home, go to a party, or start your weekend getaway.

Saturday: The weekend is a prime time to catch up on the workout days you might not have been able to do within the week. If you are short on the 150 minutes of brisk walking total for the week, plan a longer walking workout. If you missed a strength training session, enjoy it now.

Sunday: Plan a relaxing stroll through a park or other green space to reduce stress. A flexibility and stretching routine can also help relieve tension.

Exercise Recommendations

You will find different regimens of exercise for high blood pressure as newer and larger studies discover which is best. The bottom line is that exercise is recommended, so don't let your hypertension be an excuse to dodge it.

  • The American Heart Association recommends for lowering blood pressure: "Get the equivalent of 150 minutes (two hours and 30 minutes) per week of moderate-intensity physical activity, such as brisk walking. Aim for 30 minutes five times per week, although shorter sessions count too. Include muscle-strengthening activity at least two days per week. Include flexibility and stretching exercises."
  • The CDC puts forth the same recommendation on its high blood pressure information, treatment, and prevention pages: 30 minutes a day, five days a week. Separately, on its exercise pages, the CDC recommends just being active. Move more, and sit less.

Brisk Walking

For a walk to be considered moderate-intensity exercise, your pace must be fast enough that it raises your pulse rate and you can notice you are breathing faster. Aim to pick up your walking pace to achieve this level. You may also include hills and stairs to raise your heart rate. If you take your pulse or wear a smartwatch or fitness band that shows your heart rate, aim for a rate that is 50 to 85 percent of your maximum heart rate.

Using Good Walking Form

Begin each walking workout with a couple of minutes at an easy pace as a warm-up. Get the most out of your walks by using good walking posture and a powerful stride. You will be able to breathe deeper, and you'll find yourself able to walk faster.

Gear Up for Walking

Treat yourself to a pair of athletic shoes suitable for fitness walking. Many styles of running shoes are appropriate, and the staff at a serious running shoe store can ensure you are properly fitted. Look for shoes that are flat and flexible. If you plan to walk during the workday, bring along a pair of athletic shoes or wear comfortable shoes that will allow you to walk briskly.

Dress in loose clothing that will allow you to enjoy a walk without having your stride or arm motion constricted. Choose technical fabrics that will wick away sweat and keep you cool and dry. You might even keep a set of workout clothes handy at work or in your car for a quick change.

Hydration 

It is important to stay hydrated. Becoming dehydrated will affect your blood pressure and can worsen your condition. Drink a cup of water before each walk and an additional cup of water for each mile that you walk, approximately every 20 minutes. The general recommendation is to let thirst be your guide. However, if you are on medications your thirst signal may not be reliable. You may need to carry a water bottle along to have access to water as you walk.

The CDC specifically recommends to drink more fluids, regardless of your fitness level. Don’t wait until you’re thirsty to drink, stay away from sugary drinks or alcohol, because these actually cause you to lose more body fluid, and stay away from cold drinks, because those can cause stomach cramps. Check with your doctor if the amount you can drink is limited or you are on water pills. In addition to your high blood pressure, if you have diabetes, are on a low-salt diet, or have another chronic health condition, discuss your health with your doctor before drinking sports beverages or taking salt tablets.

Make Time for Exercise

Both longer and shorter exercise sessions have been found to be beneficial by studies and are recommended by health authorities. If you find it hard to set aside a large block of time for exercise, find the time for brisk walks of 10 to 15 minutes. Strength workouts do not have to be time-consuming. Buy some resistance bands or dumbbells to keep handy for a quick session, or use a body-weight workout that needs no equipment.

Keep in mind that for people with very high or uncontrolled blood pressure, certain types of exercise may be contraindicated. If you are in this category, check with your physician, who can recommend the best forms of exercise for you.

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Article Sources
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  1. Heart.org. The American Heart Association. Getting Active to Control High Blood Pressure. Dallas, Tex.: American Heart Association 2020 http://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/high-blood-pressure/changes-you-can-make-to-manage-high-blood-pressure/getting-active-to-control-high-blood-pressure

  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. High Blood Pressure (home). Washington, DC: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 2020 https://www.cdc.gov/bloodpressure/index.htm

  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Your Health - Your Environment Blog. Tips for Preventing Heat-Related Illness. Washington, DC: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 2020 https://blogs.cdc.gov/yourhealthyourenvironment/2017/09/25/tips-for-preventing-heat-related-illness

  4. Pescatello LS, MacDonald HV, Lamberti L, Johnson BT. Exercise for Hypertension: A Prescription Update Integrating Existing Recommendations with Emerging ResearchCurr Hypertens Rep. 2015;17(11):87. doi:10.1007/s11906-015-0600-y