I have helped well over 30 clients lower their blood pressure to the point where they are off medication. It is probably much higher, I just didn’t keep a tally as I went along. There are some simple steps I follow, including keeping in touch with their doctor.
Follow the Doctor’s Orders
I have never helped someone get off blood pressure medication without talking to their doctor (verbally or in writing). I have never helped them get off blood pressure medication by going against what their doctor said.
A fitness trainer plays the role of a helper to a doctor in this scenario. Doctor’s usually love it because it ensures that their patients follow through and get better. Fitness trainers love it because if something bad happens, we have the ultimate excuse: “I did just what the doctor said to do – here’s the proof.”
I’m providing this information here because it is a pretty standard procedure and doesn’t vary too much from patient to patient.
Now, having said that, if a person has hypertension (high blood pressure), then they are likely to have several other situations or “pre-situations” stirring that haven’t really surfaced yet. You need to just go easy on the person and be very aware of what is going on so that you don’t push them too hard.
If you’re training yourself, just listen to your body. Take your blood pressure regularly and keep a log of it. It helps you and your doctor.
The Program Revolves Around Cardiovascular Exercise
Here’s the quick answer:
Do cardiovascular exercise at least 4 times per week for at least 30 minutes.
There’s not a magical formula other than just that. I find out what the person wants to do or can do.
If they’re 300 pounds, then walking for 30 minutes may be out of the question. Jogging is definitely out of the question. I would have to check the weight limit on my rowing machine to see if it will hold them so I would usually have them on a recumbent bike. But even for that, I would need to check the weight limit on the machine.
Sometimes swimming is a better option if the person has a knee problem. Get them in a pool that has chest-high water and tell them to go back and forth for 30 minutes. They shouldn’t be huffing and puffing throughout or at the end of it.
The art here is to take into consideration what the person will do and what they can do. Sometimes you find they love one thing and can zone out while listening to their favorite band or an audiobook. Other times you’ve got to keep them occupied by doing 15 minutes on this machine and then 15 minutes on the other.
If it is something that the person looks forward to doing after work (or right out of bed) then I have no problem getting them to get in the gym.
The usual type of person who has hypertension does not go to the gym. Cardiovascular exercise is something new to them and I always pay good attention to the smallest details. I teach them to start the treadmill with their feet on the sides and once it is going slowly, to then step on. I show them what the buttons are and what the important ones are.
I give them a thorough orientation to the gym and to fitness in general. And I don’t make them feel stupid about it. Often times these are lawyers, business owners, fathers, etc. They don’t need to be talked down to, but they need to be helped. Helping someone with super simple stuff and not coming across as condescending is an art.
As a side note, this is the value of a good trainer. He can teach fitness to any crassy old asshole and get him interested in winning.
Any fitness trainer can get an athlete doing some amazing jumping lunges with a vest and put on a whole show for the gym. But the trainer that deserves the award is the one who got a smoker to quit the habit, get oriented to the gym and start making healthy decisions for himself. These are two very different people here.
But back to the point: Cardio at least 4 times per week for at least 30 minutes. Light cardio usually does the trick. Their doctor will usually say to back off the salt.
I wish that I could say that there is some esoteric formula and that we, the trainers, hold the magical formula and you shall pay $500 dollars a day to be trained by us. But it isn’t that way.
We are valuable in getting you started, teaching you how to use a recumbent bike, rowing machine, elliptical and treadmill. We have creative ideas for working around injuries. We can be inspiring and provide a positive atmosphere.
But this is a straightforward procedure and your doctor can say that much.
I always make sure that my clients stretch at the end of a workout. Stretching feels nice, I haven’t found anyone who doesn’t need it, and it may play more of a factor than I ever thought on getting blood pressure down.
Recent studies have found that stretching may play a more significant role than brisk walking in lowering your blood pressure.
Now, I know of studies in athletes that have had nerve activity checked in their muscles before and after static stretching. The nerve activity dropped significantly after stretching. This is why you never have athletes do static stretching prior to an event. You have them do dynamic stretching.
Static stretching calms your nervous system down and for more than a decade I’ve used it as a hack for falling asleep faster. I stretch for 10 or so minutes before bed and when I hit the pillow, I’m gone.
I’m giving you some background music to this subject, because based on my own experience, how my clients look after they’re done stretching, and several studies that I’ve read – this actually makes sense. I’m excited to see all of this new information come out.
And an important takeaway here is that my programs for handling hypertension with my clients have probably worked so well because I always make them stretch after every workout. Whether they are in dire need of it or not, I try to put in good practices and habits. And according to some studies on the subject, apparently that was the most beneficial.
That’s cool with me.
I touched on this a bit earlier, but if a person has high blood pressure, it is usually paired up with hyperinsulinema, obesity, and hypertrigliceridemia.
A program should address and take into consideration the whole scene. Think like a mechanic. If a person comes in for a squeaky wheel and you see they have leaked out most of their transmission fluid, it is unethical for you to handle the squeaky wheel and not bring up the transmission problem.
The same goes with helping people with their physical problems. As a fitness trainer, I have had people come to me for very simple problems but be totally unaware of the bigger picture.
One example was a woman with a very hunched upper back and her main concern was lowering her body fat from 20% to 15%. I was thinking, “When are we going to bring up the elephant in the room, here?” She honestly had no clue that her posture was off. Not one bit! So I did my posture drill with her to get her aware and she was on board but didn’t want it to distract from the main reason she wanted to see me.
The point here is that a person with hypertension is a high-risk client. Hypertension may be the tip of the iceberg. If they have not gotten a full physical, I refuse to train them before they do so. I get a doctor’s “Okay to do a guided physical exercise program” and I get rolling. Sometimes there are specific instructions from the doctor and I follow them to the T.
If you’re a trainer, you can’t take anything “as a given.” You have to be slightly paranoid that this person is going to fall off the treadmill, that they have osteoporosis, a tendency to drop weights on themselves and all sorts of other disturbing things.
It might be a normal person you’re training, but I’m just saying to LOOK at the person in front of you and control the situation like the expert you are. I make checking blood pressure prior to exercise a ritual and I make time to sit with them while they do it. It can be an embarrassing thing to check your BP in public, but just make it normal and a way you warm up to the person for the day.
Every trainer runs his show differently. All I’m saying is to keep all bases covered and you’ll do fine.
The solution for handling high blood pressure is super simple. I still can’t believe that people are on medication for it and not doing cardio and stretching to get off the medications.
I actually think these situations are fun because usually the person doesn’t know how easy it is. I then help them with it and then they get excited about what else can be handled on their bodies. We then find something, work out a program and run it and handle that, too.
These end up being some of my most outspoken clients. I’ve really helped them and they really appreciate it.
They then start talking to other people and drag them into the gym.
And that’s why I love this trade.