The mere word "exercise" may have you stressing over old dress sizes and dusty treadmills. Ironically, exercise can reduce stress and lower blood pressure without the aid of horse pills or miracle diets. The secret of exercise lies in its ability to strengthen blood flow, release feel-good chemicals in the brain and improve your overall mood.
Blood Pressure vs. Stress
Understanding the relationship between stress and hypertension is essential for anyone who has both conditions. Stress doesn't necessarily cause high blood pressure, and high blood pressure doesn't necessarily cause stress. Though stress can cause short-lived blood pressure spikes, stress management doesn't help manage hypertension. These two ailments are managed independently; however, regular exercise provides a great means to treat both stress and hypertension interdependently or "kill two birds with one stone." Treating both at the same time could yield hidden benefits, too. For instance, treating stress could improve your diet, which could improve your blood pressure.
Regular exercise helps strengthen the muscles of the heart. A stronger heart can pump more blood throughout the body with less effort. As the heart works less to supply blood to the body, the pressure on the arteries decreases. Exercise alone can reduce your systolic blood pressure -- the top number -- by 9 millimeters of mercury, which is equally as powerful as some blood pressure medications, according to MayoClinic.com.
Staying fit can put you in a good mood, helping prevent stress and stress-related blood pressure spikes. Exercise can help you sleep better at night so you can awake feeling refreshed and energized. Regular activity also combats other causes of stress, like depression and anxiety. Getting involved in an activity is a stress relief because it gets your mind off of everyday stressors, allowing you the opportunity to unwind and meditate.
Releases Feel-Good Chemicals
During a workout session, your blood constantly pumps chemicals to and from the brain. Feel-good chemical messengers, or neurotransmitters, called endorphins are released during an exercise session. Endorphins evoke feelings of euphoria in the brain, leaving you feeling fantastic after a cardio session. It's druglike capabilities have earned this release of endorphins the nickname "runner's high." According to MayoClinic.com, runner's high can alleviate stress from the day and prevent stress-induced blood pressure spikes.
Jacob Broadley has been a writer since 2008. He has a Bachelor of Science in cellular biology from the University of Louisville and is pursuing his M.D. from the American University of the Caribbean.