Exercise and activity

How does exercise and activity affect blood pressure?

Exercise and activity are often used and thought of interchangeably, but they have two different definitions and impacts on blood pressure. 

Exercise refers to sustained, concerted physical effort (increases heart rate and breathing), while activity refers to almost anything that is not sitting or lying down. This distinction is important because while something like walking is great activity, if it is not increasing your heart rate for a sustained period of time, you are not getting benefits of true exercise.

Conversely, exercise alone is not enough to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Even a person who exercises each day is hurting their health if they do not also get enough activity (ie, they spend most of the day sitting or lying down). We need both activity and exercise to maintain a healthy lifestyle. 

If you have never been active or have never exercised before, it might seem intimidating to begin adding more activity and exercise into your routine. The important thing when starting to add activity and exercise is to go slowly and to be patient. It takes time to improve fitness, lose weight, or battle fatigue, but all of these will result from consistent effort. 

The American Heart Association recommends at least 150 weekly minutes of “moderate intensity aerobic exercise”. Your heart rate should increase and you should be able to talk but not sing while you are exercising to reach the recommended level of exertion. 

Level 1 Changes

  • If your job requires long periods of sitting, get up at least once an hour and walk around for at least five minutes.
  • Get in the habit of using the stairs instead of elevators or escalators.
  • Add a 10-20 minute walk, bike ride, or other leisurely activity (gardening, cleaning, dancing, etc) to your day. If you have never been on a fitness program before, this is a great way to get used to carving out time in your day for a workout.

Level 2 Changes

  • Follow all Level 1 Changes and…
  • Increase the amount of time you spend on daily walks or other leisurely activities.
  • Go to a group fitness class. This is an easy way to begin to incorporate exercise if you’re not comfortable with starting a fitness program on your own. 
    • Brick House Gym in Huntingdon, PA offers Spin Classes almost daily 
    • Solid Rock Wellness Center in Mount Union, PA offers
      • Rock Dance Fit Class (Sat, 9am)
      • Yoga (Tue, 5:30pm)
      • ROCK FIT Boot Camp (Tue & Thu 4:15pm) 

Level 3 Changes

  • Challenge yourself to find more opportunities in your day to walk or stand
  • Increase the amount of time in your day you do your leisurely/moderate activity
  • Commit to a fitness program. You can do any type of program that you like, but being consistent is what will be most beneficial to your health and the most likely to help you control your weight. Make sure that you are consulting experts or your doctor for ideas on how to structure your fitness program; making things up as you go along is not a good way to make progress.

SOURCE: American Heart Association, “Why Should I Lose Weight?”