Hypertension and physical activity

Treating hypertension with sport

Lifestyle changes reduce blood pressure and promote the effectiveness of antihypertensive therapy, whatever the severity of the disease

A person suffering from high blood pressure should focus their attention on achieving the following goals: weight reduction, healthy nutrition, stress reduction, moderation of alcohol consumption, drug and smoking cessation, physical activity.

Given that sport, in addition to reducing overweight and stress, brings numerous benefits to the entire cardiovascular system, among all these factors is certainly the most important. Training, ie the use of structured exercise programs aimed at increasing the level of fitness, is today unanimously considered an effective method of prevention and treatment.

  • in general, each kg lost reduces both maximum and minimum pressure by 1mmHg
  • Physical activity is an independent factor for human health : it means that physical activity alone is able to reduce the risk of mortality from any disease. Thus, for example, a smoker who practices physical activity is much less likely to die than a smoker who does not perform physical activity.

See also:

  • Combat high blood pressure with a workout in the gym
  • Hypertension and Sport

Physical activity and hypertension

For several years it has been shown that the degree of fitness is inversely proportional to blood pressure levels. In other words, it means that an active person has a lower risk of developing hypertension than a sedentary person.

This risk increases already at a young age if the child is not initiated into the practice of regular physical activity and controlled dietary choices.

The sport, also understood as the carrying out of daily motor activities of medium intensity (gardening, walking, household chores etc.), besides having a preventive efficacy also has a very important therapeutic function.

The usefulness of physical activity on blood pressure reduction in patients with mild / moderate hypertension has been the subject of numerous studies for a long time. All this research has shown that regular exercise (biking, swimming, jogging, walking or their combinations) can significantly reduce resting pressure levels.

Average reduction in blood pressure induced by regular exercise in patients with mild or moderate arterial hypertension. (Kokkinos PF. Et. Coron Art Dis 2000)

The data reported in the table, considered from another point of view, testify how the exercise decreases by about 50% the risk of cardiovascular and cerebral damage from excessive pressure.

Gymnastics also has a short-term hypotensive effect. In particular, after performing an aerobic exercise of 30-40 minutes, the pressure remains lower (<5-8 mmHg) for about 13 hours.

Why is physical activity good for the heart?

The beneficial effects of training are due to numerous factors among which the most important are:

CAPILARIZATION: increase in the number of capillaries in muscle and heart, where the development of the coronary microcycle eliminates the risk of angina and heart attack

GREATER APPEARANCE OF BLOOD AND OXYGEN: to all tissues and in particular to the heart muscle

STRESS REDUCTION: both transient and long term thanks to the release of euphoric substances that intervene in the regulation of mood (endorphins).

REDUCTION OF PERIPHERAL RESISTANCES: thanks to the reduction of the activity of some hormones and their receptors (catecholamines), and thanks to the increase in the capillary bed

POSITIVE EFFECT ON OTHER RISK FACTORS: physical activity has a beneficial effect on other pathologies that are often associated or cause hypertension such as diabetes, dyslipidemia and obesity.

Is there an ideal sport to prevent and treat hypertension?

There is absolutely no ideal sport for those suffering from high blood pressure. However, there are more effective physical activities than others and some that in particular circumstances can even be counterproductive.

The physical exercise useful for the prevention and treatment of hypertension must respect the following characteristics:

AEROBIC or cardiovascular: it must be a physical activity of a duration carried out at medium intensity (40-70% of VO2max). To find out what the level of physical effort is, you can buy a heart rate monitor or, more simply, maintain an effort that, even if challenging, allows you to talk to your training partner.

Typical examples of cardiovascular work are walking, jogging, running, endurance swimming and cycling.

TRAINING FREQUENCY: to be truly effective, exercise should be repeated at least three times a week. The maximum beneficial effect is obtained with 5 weekly sessions, even if the differences, in terms of pressure drop, are not significant. In this case the benefits on the reduction of body weight and on the effectiveness of the cardiovascular system improve instead.

DURATION: to be effective, the activity must last for at least 20-30 minutes, possibly without interruptions. Also in this case the best results are obtained with a greater effort (40-50 minutes). Below twenty minutes the positive effects drop considerably.


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