30-Minutes to a Better Life

Photo credit: Victor Tondee [CC BY 2.0]

Stressed? You aren’t alone. The American Psychological Association released Stress in America: The State of our Nation in November 2017, finding that “a majority of adults (59 percent) said they consider this the lowest point in our nation’s history that they can remember…” Modern life, with the culture of multitasking and expectation to ‘do it all,’ continues to add more and more to our already packed schedules. Work demands, family obligations, and personal commitments all contribute. As stress levels rise, so too does hypertension and the risks of associated diseases and complications, like increased risk of heart disease and stroke. Approximately 1 in 3 adults has high blood pressure. Of those, about 54% have their blood pressure under control.

While we are inundated with proof that exercise can lower stress, finding the time to exercise may feel impossible. Including even one more activity in your day may feel impossible, but taking the time to exercise makes other challenges seem surmountable. Walking and practicing yoga are two forms of exercise that are easy to fit into your life and have been shown reduce stress and blood pressure.

Walking is a low impact way to lower blood pressure. Proven to be as effective as running, the American Heart Association recommends 40 minutes of moderate- to vigorous-intensity activity for three to four days a week to benefit blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Too busy for 40 minutes? Try splitting it up into 10 to 15-minute increments, shown to be just as effective. Some ways to add more walking to your day are to take the stairs, park at the farthest end of the parking lot, walk your dog, or take a walk with your partner or family.

Like walking, links have been found between practicing yoga and improving blood pressure. A meta-analysis conducted by the National Center for Biotechnology Information found that “overall, yoga was associated with a modest but significant reduction in blood pressure in individuals with prehypertension and hypertension. It’s important to note that “…even small reductions in blood pressure have been shown to reduce risk for coronary heart disease and stroke,” according to the National Institutes of Health.

Many feel too intimidated to check out their local yoga studio. Misconceptions about yoga abound; while 75% of Americans agree “yoga is good for you,” 48% of all Americans say they are unlikely to try yoga, according to yogaalliance.org. It isn’t necessary to be hyper-flexible or in shape to practice yoga. As yoga continues to grow in popularity, it is becoming easier to find a studio that is the right fit for you. Alternatively, the internet provides a vast collection of free yoga videos to try at home. Yoga with Adriene on YouTube offers excellent options for beginners.

Roughly translated to yoke in English, yoga is the union between breath and movement. Both the physical practice (asana) and breathing exercises (pranayama) are beneficial because they stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS). Stress causes spikes in cortisol levels and triggers the sympathetic nervous system (SNS), our biological “fight or flight” response. The PNS is linked to our “rest and digest” response, slowing the heart and lowering blood pressure.

Some yoga poses are more beneficial than others. Supported forward folds, both standing and seated (Uttanasana and Pashchimottanasana) are considered cooling for the body and help to quiet the mind. Forward folds can be especially calming after a stressful day.

Yoga poses that are contraindicated for practitioners with hypertension are inversions, such as headstand and handstand (Shirshasana and Adho Mukha Vrksasana), and poses that compress the diaphragm, like bow pose (Dhanurasana). As always, please check with your doctor before beginning any new exercise regimen.

As days speed by faster and faster, with more to do and less time to do it, taking a moment for mindfulness, spending 15 minutes walking through your neighborhood or focusing on a simple yoga flow, can allow some space between you and those daily agitations associated with everyday life. Reducing overall stress is one of the best ways to combat hypertension and lead a happy, healthy life.

 

Resources

American Psychological Association

https://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/stress/2017/state-nation.pdf

Centers of Disease Control

https://www.cdc.gov/bloodpressure/index.htm

American Heart Association

http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/HealthyLiving/PhysicalActivity/Walking/Walk-Dont-Run-Your-Way-to-a-Healthy-Heart_UCM_452926_Article.jsp#.WmqtFpM-fVr

American Heart Association

http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/HealthyLiving/PhysicalActivity/FitnessBasics/American-Heart-Association-Recommendations-for-Physical-Activity-Infographic_UCM_450754_SubHomePage.jsp

National Institutes of Health

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3679769/

Yoga Alliance

https://www.yogaalliance.org/Portals/0/2016%20Yoga%20in%20America%20Study%20RESULTS.pdf

Yoga with Adriene on YouTube

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OQ6NfFIr2jw&list=PLui6Eyny-UzzWwB4h9y7jAzLbeuCUczAl%5D and busy people

 

 

Yoga Journal

https://www.yogajournal.com/teach/the-scientific-basis-of-yoga-therapy

Yoga International

https://yogainternational.com/article/view/5-poses-to-reduce-hypertension

About Robin R.
I’m an AFPA certified personal trainer & nutrition consultant, NASM certified corrective exercise specialist, NASM certified youth exercise specialist, online fitness trainer and freelance writer specializing in health and fitness. I hold a Bachelor of Arts in psychology from the University of San Francisco and a Master of Science in natural health. I specialize in weight loss, functional strength training, total body toning, aerobic conditioning, plyometric training, nutrition planning, and home-based boot camp style workouts for women. My goal is to make every personal training session fun and effective for my clients. My services include online fitness training and professional content writing services at an affordable price for your business website or blog. I specialize in search engine optimization (SEO), article & blog writing.

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