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Sticking with exercise

Types of exercise

Meet our fitness expert, Caroline Sandry

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Getting started

So how do you go about making physical activity part of your life? Start by gradually increasing the amount you do as part of your daily routine – for example, walking more, putting more effort into household and garden chores. The ultimate aim is to build up to 30 minutes per day, 5 days per week. But don’t worry if you can’t achieve 30 minutes straightaway – start with 10 minutes, twice a day and build it up when you feel ready. See below for 5 ways to inject more activity into a typical day.

If you like to have structure and routine in your life, you may prefer to find specific times to exercise and organise a regular swim, walk or a fitness class.  Again, the aim is to work up to 30 minutes per day of aerobic activity, 5 days a week.

Here’s an idea of how many calories you burn doing some common activities...

  • A 14 stone man will burn 300 calories walking at a fairly leisurely pace (covering one mile every 20 minutes) for an hour
  • A 12.5 stone man will burn 530 calories swimming breaststroke for 40 minutes
  • A 10.5 stone woman will burn 400 calories cycling at 10-12 mph for 1 hour

5 ways to inject more activity into a typical day

  • Walk every journey you make that’s under half a mile
  • Take the dog for a walk and then chase the ball/stick with him instead of just standing still
  • If you drive to the supermarket, park as far from the store as possible
  • Visit a sandwich shop that is a 10-minute walk at lunchtime instead of the one opposite your office!
  • Get up to change TV channels rather than using the remote control

Friends in woods

Taking it further

If you already exercise regularly, don’t rest on your laurels! The body is very good at adapting to the physical demands you place upon it – and it’s only by moving the goalposts a little further away every now and again that you can make further fitness gains. There are three ways you can progress, nicely summed up by the acronym FIT.

F for frequency: you can exercise more often.

I for intensity: you can push yourself harder during exercise.

T for time: you can increase the length of your workouts.

Top tip: Pick just one letter at a time to work on! Don’t try to increase the duration and intensity of an exercise activity all at once.


Q: I have high blood pressure, what activities should I avoid?

A: Steer clear of exercise activities that involve short bursts of very high-intensity effort, such as playing squash, sprinting or heavy weightlifting. But that doesn’t mean you can’t perform any kind of strength training – get some advice about what’s right for you. Do be aware that you may not be able to take part in ‘extreme’ sports and activities such as scuba diving and parachuting if your blood pressure is not under control. If you are planning to take part in this kind of activity, talk to your doctor in advance as a medical certificate is often needed before taking part.


Myth: Exercise raises your blood pressure so you shouldn’t do it if you have hypertension.

Fact: When we exercise, the heart beats faster and harder, systolic blood pressure rises (that’s the ‘top’ figure) in order to pump more oxygen-rich blood to muscles – this is a perfectly normal response to exercise. The circulatory system adjusts accordingly, by dilating blood vessels and opening additional capillaries to help a greater and more forceful flow. So while exercise will cause your blood pressure to rise temporarily, it will return to normal when you stop. As you get fitter, it will get back to normal increasingly quickly.

You should always consult your doctor or your practice nurse, if you've never exercised before, or have any concerns.

6 top tips to finding the right exercise teacher or venue

  • Watch an exercise class before making a decision about joining, to see if it looks like something you’ll enjoy and be able to do.
  • Visit a health club/gym you are considering joining for a tour of the facilities. Make sure there are lots of different options for activity available.
  • Ask about a teacher or instructor’s qualifications and experience. Are they aligned to a governing body, such as the British Wheel of Yoga: or Register of Exercise Professionals
  • Consider getting some one-to-one sessions with a qualified personal trainer to get you off on the right foot. Check out the Register of Exercise Professionals or National Register of Personal Trainers
  • Tell the instructor or trainer about your condition and ask how this might affect your ability to exercise and whether they are able to offer adaptations/modifications (for example, a facility to help you get in and out of the pool).

Use your intuition. If you don’t get on with someone, or don’t get a good feel about a place, look elsewhere.

Exercising safely with high blood pressure

  • Always warm up before exercising. This involves mobilising the joints with gentle bending, extending and rotating movements and raising the heart rate and body temperature through easy-paced aerobic activity. (Marching on the spot or walking will do fine.) Let your warm-up be slow and gradual to allow your heart rate and breathing frequency adapt.

    Top tip:
    If you are very stiff, a warm shower or bath can help start the warming-up process.

  • Exercise ‘little and often’ if you find it challenging. You can gradually work towards longer blocks of activity as you get fitter. Every little helps!

  • It’s normal to have some soreness/fatigue after exercise but if you’re in pain, rather than discomfort, seek advice.

  • Don’t continue with any exercise that is causing severe pain. If you feel breathless, tightness or pain in the chest, stop exercise immediately.

  • Monitor how your body responds to exercise. Do you have more energy for afternoon sessions? Are you more comfortable exercising outdoors or indoors? Do you need to give yourself longer to build up the duration of your workouts? Keeping an exercise diary can help you keep tabs on all this, and shape future exercise plans.

  • Avoid ‘isometric’ exercises. These are strength exercises in which you hold a stationary position, resisting gravity. For example, the plank (in which you have your body extended in a straight line, with weight on forearms and balls of the feet only) or the wall sit, in which you ‘sit’ on an imaginary chair with your back against the wall. This type of exercise can raise blood pressure and you may be tempted to hold your breath.

  • If you do strength training, go for a pattern of high repetitions but with low weights/resistance. Breathe freely throughout the exercises.

    Top tip: Do not hold your breath or strain during exercise. Control your breathing by exhaling slowly with the ‘effort’ and inhaling slowly on the ‘easy’ bit.

  • Be aware that medicines for high blood pressure can alter the heart rate – so if you use a heart rate monitor, values may be different. It’s important to let an instructor or personal trainer know that you are on this type of medicine if they are using heart rate as a way of monitoring your effort level.

  • If you are taking medicine for high blood pressure, take extra care when you get up from the floor to reduce the chance of feeling dizzy.

SHS078 Date of preparation May 2013

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