Exercise and Blood Pressure Part 1 of 2

Exercise and Blood Pressure Part 1 of 2

This two part blog will be looking at blood pressure and how lifestyle and exercise can lower both you own blood pressure and the risks associated with the condition.

Today I thought I would help lift the lid on the causes of hypertension and how lifestyle plays a leading role in the safe and long term management of the condition.

High blood pressure or hypertension is known as the silent killer as it rarely has obvious symptoms. It is currently estimated that around 10 million people in the UK suffer from the condition or approximately one in five of us (NHS 2010). Although considered to be a cardiovascular disease in its own right (affecting the heart and lungs), hypertension also plays a major role in the development of other serious and potentially life threatening diseases such as heart failure, coronary artery disease and strokes.

Approximately 78% of men and 66% of women with raised blood pressure are not receiving treatment and nearly 60% of people currently being treated are still living with raised blood pressure (BHF 2005, Lawrence & Barnett)


CategorySystolic BP (mmHg)Diastolic BP (mmHg
High Normal13-13985-89
Grade 1 Hypertension (Mild)140-15990-99
Grade 2 Hypertension (Moderate)160-179100-109
Grade 3 Hypertension180+110+

If you only take one thing away from this blog then get your blood pressure check and don’t delay. Get it checked at your local GP (often in the waiting room), local pharmacy or book in for some health screening with a qualified competent professional. (We health screen all our clients at Fundamentally FIT, we are not medical professionals but we can screen and refer you on where required).

So what is causes hypertension?

90-95% of all hypertension cases are known as essential hypertension and cannot be attributed to any one identifiable cause. In this situation a number of factors can contribute such as Genetics and lifestyle choices. A high sodium intake for example and obesity have very strong links to the condition as well as insulin resistance. Alongside this Physical inactivity and psychological stress also negatively impact on your blood pressure.

5-10% of hypertension is known as secondary and does have an identifiable cause, often related to other medical conditions within the body.

How to manage hypertension

As we have seen up to 95% of hypertension can be improved upon by positively modifying lifestyle habits. Here is our run down on the best ways to get your blood pressure down and keep you fighting fit.

  • Losing weight- Every 9kg (20lbs) of weight lost can help to reduce systolic blood pressure by 5-20mmHg
  • Eating DASH Diet (Dietary Approach to Stop Hypertension) This diet is lower in fat, which focuses on fat free or low fat milk and dairy products, fish, poultry, nuts and is rich in fruit and vegetables and wholegrains, and limits red meat, sweets,, added sugar and sugar containing beverages. This approach can lower systolic blood pressure by 8-14mmHg
  • Limiting alcohol intake to no more than two drinks per day for men and 1 drink for women can help lower systolic blood pressure by 2-4mmHg
  • Reducing your intake of sodium (salt), approximately half the sufferers of hypertension are also salt sensitive. This means that for them a high intake of salt in their diet will actively promote hypertension, while a lower intake will lower it. Consuming no more than 2,400mg a day (1500mg is ideal) can reduce systolic blood pressure by 2-8 mmHg
  • Not smoking- smoking can accelerate the damaging effects of blood pressure as well as its links to other serious conditions such as its links to lung cancer.
  • Exercise- Cardiovascular exercise has been shown to reduce systolic blood pressure by 5-9 mmHg.

It’s worth remembering that even when elevated blood pressure is returned to normal through medication, exercise and lifestyle changes the disease risks will still remain higher than if you had never had hypertension.

Next time we will be looking at the impact of hypertension on exercise and offering you some of our best advice for getting the most from your training.

By Andy Strong

L3 Exercise Referral Instructor.

Fundamentally FIT

Sources: Future Fit Training, ACSM,NHS, BHF,

Always consult your doctor before starting any new form of exercise. All recommendations here are general and one to one coaching should be sought to ensure safe and reliable results. Please not that individuals on medication will have additional considerations outside of the basic guidelines offered here. You should seek advice from your GP or an exercise referral qualified instructor such as those at Fundamentally FIT.

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