Exercise do’s and don’ts for those with hypertension

Although hypertension is the most common and costly cardiovascular disease risk factor, it is highly preventable if lifestyle changes are made.

Exercise is usually the initial lifestyle therapy recommended to prevent, treat, and control hypertension.

Even though it can be daunting, regular light exercise can make a world of difference to your blood pressure, and consequently prevent the onset of any kind of cardiovascular disease.

Exercise may increase blood pressure temporarily but will lower it in the long run. For hypertensive individuals, knowing how to exercise safely is crucial to preventing unnecessary complications.

Know your FITT prescription

The prescription of exercise as a management of a disease is usually based on one’s respective FITT formulation.

FITT refers to how often (Frequency), how hard (Intensity), how long (Time) and what kind (Type) of exercise you should comply with.

Generally, hypertensive individuals should take up only moderate-intensity aerobic exercises and moderate-intensity dynamic resistance exercises.

Most professional committees/organisations recommend exercising on most, preferably all days of the week for at least 30 minutes.

Aerobic exercises include walking, jogging, running, stair-climbing, cycling, and swimming.

Dynamic resistance training refers to resistance exercises that involve joint movement. This includes functional bodyweight exercises or using equipment like machine weights, free weights, and resistance bands.

Start slowly

Whatever exercise you opt for, remember to start slowly and increase the intensity once you’ve raised your fitness level.

If you are planning to join a gym, start with a beginner’s level class. Always remember to warm up before you exercise to prevent injury, and cool down afterwards. Build up the intensity of your workouts a little at a time.

Monitor your progress

Monitor your progress and take regular blood pressure readings using a home blood pressure monitor.

This can help you determine whether your fitness regime is helping to reduce your hypertension or not.

Monitor your blood pressure before exercising, and at least one hour afterwards.

Listen to your body

Stop exercising if you experience any chest pain or tightness, dizziness, excessive fatigue, or severe shortness of breath. Seek medical help immediately if necessary.

Make sure you consult your doctor before starting an exercise programme, especially if you were not physically fit and active before.

Inform others of your condition

High blood pressure can be unpredictable, and even light-to-moderate exercise can cause an increase in blood pressure.

Wearing a medical ID bracelet or informing your exercise partner about your condition can protect you in case something unexpected occurs during a workout.

Avoid strenuous strength-related activities

You should try to avoid any exercise that is intensive for short periods of time, such as sprinting or weightlifting.

These activities will raise your blood pressure rapidly, and place an unwanted amount of strain on your heart and blood vessels.

Other activities that you should avoid include squash, skydiving and scuba diving, unless you are a trained professional whose hypertension is well under control.

Don’t accumulate your exercise sessions

If you don’t have enough time to do a 30-minute exercise session per day, consider breaking it into 10-minute workouts whenever you can.

This would be better than only exercising intensively during the weekends, as sudden bursts of activity could be risky to your health. It could also put you at risk of certain musculoskeletal injuries.

This article first appeared in hellodoktor.com. It was reviewed by the Hello Doktor Medical Panel. The Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.