An estimated 75 million American adults have high blood pressure—that is one in every three adults, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. There are a certain lifestyle and dietary changes that you need to do if you live with high blood pressure. Some of these changes include modifying your diet and incorporating exercise.
Exercising when you have high blood pressure may sound counterintuitive. While it is true that physical activity can cause blood pressure to rise, this increase is only temporary, and the rewards to your cardiovascular health can be plenty. Also, living an inactive lifestyle is actually more dangerous for people with high blood pressure because it can cause weight gain and negatively affect cardiovascular health.
Always Consult Your Physician
As with any health condition, always speak to your doctor before making any changes to your current routine. Your doctor has insight into your health and will be able to give well-rounded advice on whether you are ready to run, what precautions and limits to keep in mind, and what you can do to get started if you have not been physically active for a while. Your physician may also suggest ways on how to keep a close watch on your blood pressure and track your progress using a blood pressure monitor at home. Keep your doctor up-to-date with any symptoms or changes you feel once you have started running regularly.
Pay attention to your body and let your doctor know immediately if you experience dizziness, chest pains, nausea, or other negative symptoms while running. You may need to set regular appointments with your physician if running is new to you and you have not exercised in a long time.
Gradually incorporate running into your lifestyle; don’t overdo it. This is especially important if you have been inactive for a while. Even experienced marathon runners know that it takes slow and steady practice to be able to run long distances and maintain a good pace. If you have not exercised in months, go for light to a moderate activity like brisk walking for thirty minutes per day. If you are relatively active, you can jog for about twenty minutes for three to four days. Make sure to do five to ten minutes of warm-ups to prevent injury and prepare your body.
Don’t push yourself too hard. Gradually work your way up to these numbers. It is perfectly okay if it takes you days or even weeks to adjust to your new exercise routine. The important thing is that you start and your body is able to adapt to being physically active.
Watch the Weather
Aside from the intensity and length of your running, you should also consider the weather when going out to exercise. Summer humidity and extreme heat can be dangerous for people with high blood pressure. Higher humidity can interfere with the body’s ability to cool down and sweat. Similarly, extreme heat can increase blood pressure as the body works hard to regulate heat. Plan running exercises for the week by checking the weather in advance. If it is hot, opt to run in a shaded area like a park or covered walk so you don’t get exposed to the direct heat of the sun. Wear running gear such as a ponytail cap to keep cool and dry-fit clothes that are light and easy for you to move in. Bring a water bottle so you can hydrate and refresh it. If you live in an area with extreme summers, consider signing up to a gym instead of running outdoors so you can be consistent with your exercise without worrying about the heat.
Listen to Your Body
Becoming more active is one of the best things you can do to improve not just your blood pressure but your overall health. To make your new running routine safer and more rewarding, make sure to pay close attention to your body and any changes it experiences. Keep track of progress by keeping a journal. Details you can note in the journal include the distances you run every day, how long it took to run, what warm-up exercises work for you, and what changes you experience. Journaling can help you monitor what works for your body and what you need to change in your running.
It is normal for your breathing and your heart to go faster when doing cardiovascular exercises like running. However, if you feel very out of breath, irregular heartbeat, dizziness, chest pains, or nausea, stop exercising and slowly cool down. Inform your doctor about these symptoms or seek emergency treatment if these do not go away.