A couple of weeks ago I visited my doctor for an annual physical and to my surprise we discovered my blood pressure was a little high. I thought it was due to the sugar free Rockstar I downed at lunch, but after monitoring it for a few days I realized there was definitely an issue. Therein began my goal to further understand any issues related to high blood pressure and working out!
What is High Blood Pressure?
Your blood pressure is measured with two numbers. The first is the Systolic pressure or top number and the bottom or Diastolic pressure is represented is the bottom number. An "average" blood pressure reading (BPR) would be 120/80. The top or systolic number measures the pressure created against the walls of the arteries as the blood is pushed out of the heart, and the diastolic or lower number represents the pressure in between beats when the heart is "at rest."
High blood pressure is often called "the silent killer" for good reason. There are no symptoms. As a personal trainer and healthy adult that works out 5-6 times a week, eats a healthy diet, and is aware of lifestyle behaviors, I was surprised that HBP was something I'd be confronting. It can be a hereditary condition or it can be caused by poor lifestyle choices, or both. When it comes to working out and high blood pressure, nothing can substitute being as knowledgeable as possible on the topic!
Blood Pressure vs Heart Rate
Most Personal Trainers will teach their clients how to measure they heart rate in an attempt to determine perceived exertion during exercise. We all know how to take our pulse for 10 seconds and multiply times 6. Your heart rate however has no correlation with you blood pressure! Your heart rate is a measurement of how quickly your heart is beating, and your blood pressure indicates how much pressure of force is created.
High Blood Pressure and Working Out
"Consult your physician before beginning an exercise / workout program." There's a reason why you'll see this disclaimer on virtually every fitness blog post you read, and why it's in the small print on any gym membership contract or personal training agreement. While you may feel fit and ready to start whipping yourself into shape, what you don't know can hurt you! High blood pressure and working out is a perfect example of this. If you don't visit the doctor regularly (like me) or have a reason to check your blood pressure regularly, you may never know that you could be at risk for serious medical complications.
I'll get into more specifics in the next blog post, but here's a couple things to consider:
Check your Blood Pressure regularly. Every gym will have a blood pressure monitor somewhere that you can use. Ask the front desk to have a personal trainer check it for you. Or you can stop into your local drugstore and check it out yourself.
Even better yet. Get an inexpensive blood pressure monitor to use to check your BP yourself. Omron makes a great one that's really easy to use.
Educate yourself to learn the risks. Here's a great resource from heart.org where you can learn more about blood pressure and general heart health information. Check it out Heart.org.
Workout Smarter. Proper form and proper technique don't just help you execute an exercise properly, they help you train smarter. A great start is to remember to never hold your breath when working out. If your doctor has determined that you need to be treated for hypertension, then definitely speak to them about your workout routine before continuing!