Of Australians over 18 years of age, approximately one third have either diagnosed or undiagnosed hypertension. Hypertension is the medical term for having high blood pressure, a disease which if uncontrolled puts increased stress and strain on our heart and other parts of our cardiovascular system such as major arteries.
Like many other chronic conditions, research strongly supports exercise as a therapy to help manage and reduce hypertension and its associated affects. In many cases, exercise can be used in combination with other lifestyle modifications which may include dietary changes, smoking cessation and reduced alcohol intake. Regular aerobic exercise (such as walking, jogging, swimming and cycling) has the strongest evidence in the prevention and management of hypertension, while completing high intensity interval training (HIIT) also has some support.
During exercise at or above a moderate intensity, our blood pressure will increase in order to supply enough blood and oxygen to our muscles. Because of this increase, our blood vessels will expand in order to help supply more blood.
Upon completion of exercise, our muscles cease to require the same amount of blood. However, our blood vessels will remain dilated for a period of time after exercise and hence our blood pressure, especially for those with hypertension, may decrease while at rest.
With regular exercise and over time our heart and blood vessels get stronger, our resting blood pressure may reduce.
The guidelines for those with hypertension include completing a warm-up and cool-down either side of exercise for 5 to 10 minutes. 5 days of moderate intensity (60-85% maximum heart rate) aerobic exercise for at least 30 minutes per session or 3 days of vigorous intensity (above 85% maximum heart rate) aerobic exercise for at least 20 minutes per session is recommended for cardiovascular health benefits.