The Benefits of Exercises on Heart Health and Blood Pressure

Cardiovascular disease encompasses a spectrum of heart and blood vessel conditions, including coronary heart disease, heart failure, high blood pressure, and strokes. Currently, it accounts for approximately one-third of global fatalities. Physical inactivity has emerged as a significant contributing factor to cardiovascular disease, with exercise being shown to reduce this risk by 50%.
Coronary heart disease, the most prevalent form, is marked by the narrowing of blood vessels that supply the heart. The inner lining of these vessels becomes damaged, often in response to high blood pressure and elevated cholesterol levels. This leads to the proliferation of smooth muscle cells within the vessel walls, causing atherosclerosis, a process that narrows vessel diameters and restricts blood flow, ultimately limiting the delivery of oxygen and nutrients to various parts of the heart muscle.


Key risk factors for cardiovascular disease include:

Many of these risk factors can be mitigated through lifestyle modifications, particularly regular physical activity, which is widely recognized as an effective preventive measure. Regular exercise yields both direct and indirect benefits, such as strengthening the heart and making it a more efficient pump, as well as positively influencing several risk factors.

Here are the effects of regular exercise on common cardiovascular disease risk factors:

Now, let’s delve into the types of exercises that are most beneficial for hypertension and cardiovascular disease:

Regular exercise is the primary recommendation for reducing blood pressure and improving cardiovascular health, for both the general population and individuals with hypertension.

Aerobic Exercise: This type of exercise decreases resting blood pressure, reduces blood pressure during light exercise and daily activities, and provides protection against future development of hypertension. These benefits are observed in men and women, whether they have normal or elevated blood pressure.

Resistance Exercise Training: Strength training, specifically isometric exercises, offer measurable benefits for blood pressure. New research published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine suggests that isometric exercises are better than other forms of exercise at lowering blood pressure. Isometric exercises, such as wall squats and planks, involve holding your body still while tensing your muscles for set periods of time. Individuals with very high resting blood pressure should consult a medical professional before commencing an exercise program.

Alexandra Struck, (MClinExPhys, BEXSc, CSEP-CEP)

Clinical Exercise Physiologist

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