Running & High Blood Pressure Explained
Running is a great way to shed calories, build muscle, and ease anxiety – but you already knew that.
Recent studies have shown that your daily runs are also a great way to strengthen your most important muscle: your heart!
Daily runs can help decrease blood vessel stiffness, inflammation, and releases nitric oxide. When your vessels release nitric oxide, it boosts blood flow and increases circulation.
If you have high blood pressure, lacing up those running shoes is a great way to lower your blood pressure and make your heart stronger.
Below, I wanted to dive into the reasons as to why, and why it’s so incredibly important.
What Is High Blood Pressure?
We all know that high blood pressure isn’t a good thing, but you may not know why it’s a bad thing. A high resting blood pressure simply means that your heart has to work a little extra harder to push blood throughout your body.
Consistent high blood pressure can cause the arteries to harden, which increases your risk for a heart attack or stroke.
You don’t want that.
What Is Considered a Healthy Blood Pressure?
Overall, your blood pressure should be below 120/80. If you had your blood pressure checked at your doctor’s office and it’s a little high, there’s no need for concern. You may be a little nervous at your doctor’s office, which can slightly elevate your blood pressure. I am certainly guilty of this.
For an accurate reading, I highly suggest investing in a home blood pressure kit so you can get a stress-free reading without a person in an intimidating white coat looming over your shoulder.
Anything under 120/80 is considered healthy, but avid runners can reduce this number significantly.
There’s no magic number to reach for because everyone is built differently. Your age and gender play a big factor in your ideal blood pressure.
The below charts are a great place to start if you want to set a very specific blood pressure goal!
Males – normal blood pressure by age
|SBP (upper number)
|DBP (lower number)
Females – normal blood pressure by age
|SBP (upper number)
|DBP (lower number)
Should I Run With High Blood Pressure?
So, your doctor told you that you have high blood pressure that you need to monitor. Don’t worry, you’re not alone.
The CDC states that almost half (47 percent) of people in the United States suffer from hypertension. To get that number lower, running is one of the best things that you can do.
However, is it safe to lace up your running shoes with high blood pressure? Absolutely!
If you are jumping from elite couch-potato status into a running regime, be sure to consult your doctor first. However, simply getting out there and elevating your heart rate even a little bit can make a big difference.
If you are a little reluctant to dive straight into a running routine, start off slow. A simple walk around the block is a great way to strengthen your heart and get that blood moving.
As you gain confidence, you can slowly incorporate jogs and other cardio activities into your workout routine.
8 Tips for Running with High Blood Pressure
1. Start slow. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and naturally lowing your blood pressure takes time. If you set running goals that are too difficult right out of the gate, you may become discouraged and quit.
2. Hammer out a schedule. Workout at least 3 times per week giving your body plenty of time to rest. Some studies find that working out in the even helps to lower blood pressure more effectively than running in the morning. Evening running is best, but the key is finding the time that works best in your schedule.
3. Be sure to drink plenty of water!
4. Know when to ease off the gas. When your muscles are sore, engage in active recovery that includes exercises that are kind to your joints, like swimming, yoga, or strength training.
5. Fuel your body with good nutrition. Eating a diet that is rich in potassium, protein, and slow-burning carbs will boost energy levels. High blood pressure is often linked with unhealthy foods, so switching up your diet while running hits that high blood pressure from two angles.
6. Break things up. Research has shown that breaking up your workouts throughout the day helps effectively lower blood pressure. Instead of running for 30 minutes all at once, try and break it up into 3 10-minute sessions.
7. Fit in a change of scenery whenever possible. Running the same block around the neighborhood or trail can get a little stale. If you can, head out to different parks or scenic areas in your town to prevent your daily runs from becoming monotonous.
8. Spice things up! Running isn’t the only way to lower your blood pressure. Keeping active is the most important part of lowering your blood pressure, and that includes anything that raises your heart rate.
Things like playing basketball, going for a bike ride, or simply taking the stairs rather than an elevator can make a big difference.
When Can I Expect to See Results?
The staff at the May Clinic suggest that blood pressure will start to lower in about 1-3 weeks after starting a new running routine. Feel free to check in on your blood pressure at least once a day to monitor your progress, but it’s super important that you check it at the same time every day.
For a dynamic reading, check it in the morning before you have breakfast, and then check it in the evening before going to bed. Your blood pressure often peaks mid-day, so taking it in the morning and evening will give you a better overall picture of your heart health.
As long as you stick to your new workout schedule, not only will those numbers go down on your blood pressure monitor, but you should also start to feel a lot better with tons of newfound energy!
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