Can Pilates Help Reduce High Blood Pressure? Is It OK To Do Pilates With High Blood Pressure?
Yes, it is my belief that Pilates can be a help towards reducing high blood pressure. Let’s firstly look at what the term blood pressure means.
How is blood pressure measured?
Blood pressure is measured in millimetres of mercury (mmHg) and is given as 2 figures:
- systolic pressure – the pressure when your heart pushes blood out
- diastolic pressure – the pressure when your heart rests between beats
For example, if your blood pressure is “140 over 90” or 140/90mmHg, it means you have a systolic pressure of 140mmHg and a diastolic pressure of 90mmHg.
As a general guide:
- ideal blood pressure is considered to be between 90/60mmHg and 120/80mmHg
- high blood pressure is considered to be 140/90mmHg or higher
- low blood pressure is considered to be 90/60mmHg or lower
High blood pressure
High blood pressure is often related to unhealthy lifestyle habits, such as smoking, drinking too much alcohol, being overweight and not exercising enough.
Left untreated, high blood pressure can increase your risk of developing a number of serious long-term health conditions, such as coronary heart disease and kidney disease.
Low blood pressure
Low blood pressure is less common. Some medicines can cause low blood pressure as a side effect. It can also be caused by a number of underlying conditions, including heart failure and dehydration.
How Many People Have High Blood Pressure?
Statistics show for example high blood pressure affects more than 1 in 4 adults in England according to Public Health England and in Scotland the number appears to be even higher.
High blood pressure increases the risk of:
- heart attacks
- heart disease
- heart failure
- aortic disease
- coronary artery disease
It can also increase the risk of chronic kidney disease, peripheral arterial disease, and vascular dementia.
What Can Cause High Blood Pressure?
There are many factors, you maybe more at risk if you:
- are over 65
- have a relative with high blood pressure
- are overweight
- eat too much salt and do not eat enough fruit and vegetables
- do not do enough exercise
- drink too much alcohol or coffee (or other caffeine-based drinks)
- are on medication such as inflammatory drugs and steroids
- have other health conditions such as diabetes or hormone problems such as an over or under-active thyroid
- do not get much sleep or have disturbed sleep
There is also the belief that daily stresses/pressures not just physical but mental and/or emotional stress affects our blood pressure levels and that our minds and bodies are linked and what we think, worry or stress about often manifests in the body over time as disease, a body not at ease.
How Can We Reduce High Blood Pressure And What Can We Do To Help Ourselves?
Doctors can help keep your blood pressure at a safe level through prescribing medication and the good news is we can make lifestyle changes ourselves that can really help us to lower our blood pressure and help reduce the chances of getting high blood pressure in the future such as eating a healthier diet, cutting down on alcohol, stopping smoking, exercising more and that’s where something like Pilates comes in to help. Some of my own students have high blood pressure controlled mostly by medications and do very well in the Pilates classes and see great benefit.
In the Pilates classes we always start standing and focus on our breathing first, relaxing the muscles around our neck and shoulders and becoming aware of our bodies in the space we are standing in, checking in with any tension that is present. I like to say “dropping our mind into our bodies”. We breathe fully into our diaphragm and external intercostal muscles as we inhale and breathe out fully using our abdominals – rectus, transverse and internal obliques – see the blog on breathing for more info. After a few minutes of this we start to do some simple stretches and then move to the mat from a standing position with The Roll Down exercise. Although Roll Down is a Pilates exercise to watch out for with high blood pressure we do the move slowly always exhaling as we curl down.
A new class member Richard who has recently joined the beginners Pilates classes has seen a difference already in his blood pressure, here is what he said…
Thanks for the session this evening; it went quite quickly which is a good sign and I thoroughly enjoyed it, both of which bodes well.
More importantly I thought you would be amused to hear, and perhaps also interesting from a practitioner’s perspective, what effect it seems to have had on my blood pressure readings!
So a week ago whilst having my pre-diabetes blood test, the nurse took my blood pressure which turned out to be rather high. The team are looking at my results tomorrow and may decide to put me on medication (which will probably have a beneficial effect in dilating my arteries so I am pretty easy whichever way they decide to go with it). My diabetes test results were also quite poor, so work to be done on my diet and weight but that is another story.
As a result she asked me to take two readings twice daily which I have been doing religiously.
Tonight’s reading, taken pretty much straight after my session with you was the only one that has been within the desired range and was also markedly below all the others that I have taken. It was 134/74 compared to an average of 145/85.
I don’t know if you have had similar feedback from others but I thought you would be in interested. I know it wasn’t a coincidence, as I can already feel the benefit. So thank you!
It’s really good to hear Richard’s story.
What Pilates Exercises Can I Do With High Blood Pressure?
Most exercises are ok to do, it’s important to always keep breathing and not hold your breath. Exhale as you flex the spine and bend forward, inhale as you extend the spine. The Pilates moves should be flowing.
Exercises to do for example would be: Shoulder Bridge, Leg Circles, Single Leg Stretch, Double Leg Stretch, kneeling exercises like Swimming in 4 points, side lying exercises like Side Kicks and prone position moves like The Star.
What Pilates Exercises Should I Not Do With High Blood Pressure?
Inverted positions where your feet are over your head such as The Rollover, Rolling Like A Ball, The Seal and The Roll Down. Although I would say if the Roll Down is performed slowly with good breath work and you’ve stretched out before it is ok to do. It’s a good way to get to the mat safely and to return to stand at the end of the class.
Pilates is a programme that can be adapted to anyone regardless of age, fitness level or physical ability. While Pilates alone might not fix everything, alongside lifestyle changes such as a heart-healthy diet it can be a great way to help you to reduce your high blood pressure and lead a healthier life.
If you have any questions on this or the classes please get in touch with me at email@example.com