Exercises to Help Manage Your Blood Pressure
Hypertension, the official term for high blood pressure is defined as blood pressure higher than 130/80. This means that your heart has to work harder to pump blood. Untreated, high blood pressure increases the risk of heart attack, stroke and other serious health problems. Hypertension is present in more than 65% of the American population over the age of 60, and it is increasing.
Standard medical treatment for high blood pressure is medication and lifestyle modification. Unfortunately, nearly 50% of people receiving medications are unable to lower their blood pressure to their target range. Lifestyle changes, such as reducing salt in the diet, smoking cessation and weight loss are effective; however, patient compliance is low.
Fortunately, research has shown that there are specific exercises and stretches that can reduce blood pressure. One new strategy is to strengthen your diaphragm. The diaphragm muscle sits at the base of the chest and helps pull air into the lungs and push air out of the lungs. Studies have shown that diaphragm strength training exercises can lower blood pressure 10-16 points!
The second method shown to be helpful in lowering blood pressure is isometric handgrip exercises. Isometric means that you contract or squeeze the muscle tight and then hold that position. Exercise participants lightly squeezed their hands and then held the position for two minutes. Patients completing a handgrip training program three times a week demonstrated a 12-15 point reduction in blood pressure. They spent only 24 minutes a week exercising and saw a significant improvement in their blood pressure! These changes in blood pressure are similar to those achieved when taking one blood pressure medication.
The third practice shown to be beneficial is the simple act of stretching. Calf, quadricep, hamstring and chest stretches designed to stretch large arteries in your legs and arms have been shown to reduce blood pressure. My favorite stretch for targeting all of the large blood vessels is the reverse warrior pose in yoga. However, there are many effective stretches to target the large arteries that can help reduce your blood pressure.
A proven and effective way to lower blood pressure is to strengthen your diaphragm, complete a few handgrip exercises per week and stretch the large blood vessels in your arms and legs. Because these stretches and exercises are good for maintaining cardiovascular health, they should be part of everyone’s workout whether or not you have hypertension!
An additional benefit to strengthening your diaphragm is that the diaphragm helps to provide stability to your spine when lifting and balancing. The diaphragm has a protective role in preventing low back injuries. It has been proven that the diaphragms of individuals with low back pain fatigue more rapidly compared to healthy people. Research also indicates that improving diaphragm strength can help with balance.
Diaphragmatic breathing also known as belly breathing helps you use your diaphragm correctly while breathing. During diaphragmatic breathing you consciously use your diaphragm to take deep breaths. Belly breathing helps you to relax, it increases the oxygen in your blood, decreases muscle tension, and reduces heart rate and blood pressure.
Not sure what diaphragmatic breathing is or how to get started on an exercise program to strengthen your diaphragm, improve your grip strength and stretch your large arteries? Advanced Healthcare and Sports Injury can help you develop an individualized exercise program to maximize your cardiovascular health and maintain a healthy spine!
This article is for educational purposes only. Always consult with your medical physician before making any changes to your health program.
*pictures and information credited to Tom Michaud, DC of humanlocomotion.com