This is a piece of quasi medical research.
I’m wondering if anyone has had the same experience as me. After a lifetime of good blood pressure a few years ago it suddenly just jumped up to 160 over 100. My doctor said that unless I could reduce it he would prescribe medicine, and to help me get on top of it he recommended that I buy a blood pressure monitor.
The increase was a surprise to me. I wouldn’t call myself a “gym junkie” but many people would say I was disgustingly fit, particularly for a man my age. I run, lift weights and surf regularly and police my weight so that it is pretty close to ideal for a person my build. My resting pulse rate is generally quite low.
Observation of my blood pressure over the last couple of years suggests some factors which influence it. Number one factor is salt. I now run at “high normal” with a systolic reading generally of 130 to 140 and diastolic of 80 to 85. It came down fairly quickly by reducing my salt intake significantly.
Other factors are alcohol – lowering it immediately after consumption but increasing it significantly the next morning – and exercise.
It is exercise that is the point of this post. A typical gym session for me consists of 30 minutes of heavy weights, 35 minutes of running during which I’ll typically cover 6.5 to 7 kms and 20 minutes of stretching. A couple of hours later the exercise effect on my blood pressure will be somewhere around 10 points for both systolic and diastolic.
The effect appears to be short and long term. If I don’t exercise for a period of weeks then my blood pressure starts to creep up.
However, I’ve recently started riding a push bike to work, something which I tried a year or so ago too. That’s half-an-hour of riding in and out, counting stops at the lights and a journey distance of somewhere around 12 kms total. The effect on my blood pressure appears to be more dramatic than that of my usual vigorous exercise regimen.
I’m wondering if others have had the same experience. And if they have, what it is about push bike riding that might make the effect greater. I have two theories. One is that it’s causing me to sweat more so that the salt content of my blood is lower, thus reducing blood pressure. The other is that the stop-start nature of bike riding, particularly those frantic dashes in the right-hand lane, rushing to make a turn and worried that the semi behind you won’t slow sufficiently, provide a superior exercise effect.
And as I like to know what I am talking about, and as my sample at the moment consists of insufficient data, being just me, I thought I’d throw the issue out to the blogosphere.
You never know. If there is something in this we might be able to convince Health Minister Roxon to subsidise push-bike purchases as a contribution to preventative health.