It’s time to move it, move it.
Adding some movement to your day could lower your blood pressure and cholesterol, according to new guidelines from the American Heart Association.
The association advised that people with mild to moderate high blood pressure and high cholesterol can lower them with exercise.
People don’t need to have an intense session at the gym to achieve the activity level necessary to reap the benefits, said Bethany Barone Gibbs, lead author of the AHA’s scientific statement and associate professor at the University of Pittsburgh’s Department of Health and Human Development and Clinical and Translational Science.
“Though planned exercise is great, just getting more active in your everyday life – like taking the stairs and picking up the pace while you walk the dog – can also give you the same benefits,” Gibbs said.
Physical activity helps train the body to get rid of harmful substances in the bloodstream, and it improves the function of the blood vessels, she added.
What’s considered too high
Blood pressure is considered elevated if it’s equal to or greater than 120 over 80 mmHg, Gibbs said.
The top number is called systolic blood pressure, and it says how much pressure your blood is putting on your artery walls when your heart beats, according to the AHA. The bottom number is diastolic blood pressure, and it is a measurement of the pressure your blood is putting on your artery walls in between your heart beats.
Gibbs recommends people aim for a total cholesterol level of under 200 mg/dL (measured in milligrams per deciliter of blood). The number is made up of your low-density lipoprotein (LDL) “bad” cholesterol, your high-density lipoprotein (HDL) “good” cholesterol, and your triglyceride levels.
Quitting smoking, reducing alcohol consumption and eating a Mediterranean diet low in processed foods can all reduce the risk of heart disease while lowering blood pressure and cholesterol, according to the new guidelines.
Although the new AHA statement recommended lifestyle changes for those with mild to moderate high blood pressure and cholesterol, all people can benefit from increased exercise, said Dr. Paul Oh, GoodLife Fitness Chair in Cardiovascular Rehabilitation and Prevention at the Toronto Rehabilitation Institute in Canada.
For those with blood pressure and cholesterol levels higher than 120 over 80 mmHg and 200 mg/dL, respectively, their health care provider would likely prescribe medication in addition to “a well-structured program of physical activity and exercise,” he said.
For those who are unsure of what treatment is best for them, Oh recommended talking to your primary care provider to get a personalized plan.
Current guidance says people should be doing at least 150 minutes of activity per week, enough exercise to raise their heart rate and breathing frequency, Gibbs said.
Ways to include physical activity in your day
There are many ways to exercise throughout the day without having to commit to long periods of working out, said CNN fitness contributor Dana Santas, a certified strength and conditioning specialist and mind-body coach who works with professional sports teams.
“Just five to 10 minutes of exercise a day is a very small-time investment that can deliver big health benefits,” she said.
An easy way to incorporate exercises into your daily routine is through habit stacking, Santas said. This is where you add a new exercise before, during or after a habit you already do, like brushing your teeth.
“Personally, I do 50 body-weight squats while brushing my teeth twice daily and do 10 push-ups right before showering,” she noted.
Older adults who live a more sedentary lifestyle can try moving for a couple minutes every hour, Santas said.
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One simple exercise she recommended is box squats, which is where you sit down until your bottom barely touches the seat of a chair, then you stand back up. This exercise can be repeated for one to two minutes.
For a fun activity, Santas suggested throwing a personal dance party and moving to your favorite songs.
“Even better, grab a friend or family member to dance with you and share in the health benefits,” she added.