Exercise and hypertension

Exercise and hypertension

Hypertension Centre

Exercise and hypertension

Hypertension is one of the risk factors for cardiovascular disease. However, regular physical activity has been shown to reduce the risk of developing hypertension by 19 to 30%. Similarly, a low cardio-respiratory fitness in middle age is associated with a 50% greater risk of developing hypertension. Results are similar in both men and women.

Obtain permission from your doctor before starting a new exercise programme, especially if you know you have hypertension.

Be patient, start slowly and gradually increase the frequency and duration of your exercise programme. You don’t have to be a runner or cyclist to get the benefits. You can take up other endurance activities such as brisk walking, swimming and low-impact aerobics. Any physical activity that increases your heart and breathing rates is considered aerobic – mowing the lawn, climbing stairs, raking leaves or scrubbing the floor counts, as long as it takes effort.

As your aerobic conditioning improves, you can add low resistance, high repetition weight training (circuit training is preferable to free weights). Avoid exercises that include an intense isometric component such as attempting to lift an immoveable object or holding a weight at arm’s length, as these can cause extreme and adverse fluctuations in blood pressure. During weight training, be careful not to hold your breath, because it can result in large fluctuations in blood pressure and increase the potential of passing out or even result in life threatening events such as abnormal heart rhythms.

Ideally, if you are hypertensive, you should exercise five to six times per week depending on your initial fitness level. However, improvement can be achieved with as little as three sessions per week. The total exercise session should last between 30 to 60 minutes. If you have a low fitness level, start by exercising for 10 to 15 minutes and gradually increase the time by five minutes every two to four weeks until you reach your 30 to 60-minute goal.

Stop exercising and seek immediate medical care if you experience any warning signs during exercise, including:

  • Chest pain or tightness
  • Dizziness or faintness
  • Pain in an arm or your jaw
  • Severe shortness of breath
  • An irregular heartbeat
  • Excessive fatigue.

To keep your blood pressure low, you need to keep exercising. It takes about one to three months for regular exercise to have an impact on your blood pressure. The benefits last only as long as you continue to exercise.

Our Employee Wellbeing Programme (EWP) is available 24 hours a day if you want to discuss hypertension and exercise. Call us on 0861872862 or email us at
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