The word “cardio” refers to the heart, a muscle that pumps blood to our entire body. When you are doing any cardiovascular exercise the goal is to strengthen your heart and make it work more efficiently. Cardiorespiratory exercise is often associated with running and weight loss. Yes, running is one form of “cardio,” but there are many options like the elliptical, biking, swimming, walking, and basically anything that keeps your heart rate elevated. Cardiovascular exercise can help with weight loss, but it also helps the body in other ways, especially by decreasing high blood pressure (BP).
Blood pressure is the force of your blood pushing against the walls of your blood vessels. High BP is when the pressure is consistently too high; BP can be classified as “too high” when either your resting Systolic (top) or Diastolic (bottom) numbers are 140/90 mmHG or higher. High BP is often referred to as the silent killer because of not regularly checking you pressure. High BP typically cannot be felt, but over time the pressure causes damage to the walls of your arteries and can damage some of the organs in the body as well. If cardiovascular exercise, as well as, a better diet is introduced slowly to someone with high BP, they have the ability to lower it. Normal blood pressure is considered 120/80 mmHG at rest. BP and heart rate (HR) don’t coincide; because your HR is low does not mean your BP is low.
To manually take a blood pressure reading, you need a sphygmomanometer (blood pressure cuff) and stethoscope for a trained individual to obtain your BP. There are also automated devices which can be used to take a BP reading. If you already have high BP it is not recommended to do intense cardiovascular exercise, because BP increases with increased intensity. If you have high BP, be sure you speak to your doctor before starting an exercise program. When you are cleared to exercise then low-moderate intensity cardio to start and slowly increasing the intensity of the exercise program can help lower your BP over time.
During exercise it is normal to have the systolic number increase and see a reading of 160/80 mmHG and this is not considered high BP. Even in healthy individuals the systolic reading can exceed 200 mmHG; however diastolic BP changes very little during exercise. This increase will only occur during exercise; when you stop exercising, BP will decrease maybe even lower than pre-exercise levels. Cardiorespiratory exercise is good for individuals with high blood pressure because it will help to lower it over time.
Cardiovascular exercise has great benefit on the heart and in turn makes your body more efficient. When your body works more efficiently your heart doesn’t need to pump as heard during rest thus you will have a lower BP. Another benefit to having a more efficient heart is that the same mile you walked on the first day will become easier over time; it won’t feel as challenging to obtain the same goals. As your body becomes more efficient, you have to make your exercise a little more challenging to keep thosenseeing results.
By: Corynne Duprey