“Stress activates hormones that increase blood pressure,” notes Sandra Tsai, M.D., a preventive cardiologist at Stanford University School of Medicine. “And chronic stress can keep the body from returning to resting levels, which may contribute to the development of hypertension.”
But exercise that incorporates deep breathing and aerobics, like yoga, can reverse the effects. “Slow, deep breathing lowers blood pressure,” explains Dr. Tsai. Harvard scientists found that 30 minutes of moderate exercise three times a week lowers blood pressure as well as medication. To get the perks, follow Vivian Del Castillo’s lead and try these gentle exercises throughout the week.
Narrow Skier Squat
This toning exercise strengthens the lower body, boosting blood flow to the legs and reducing pressure on arterial walls to help lower overall blood pressure.
To do: Stand with your feet together. Keeping your heels down and your knees squeezed together, slowly bend your knees as if sitting down in a chair. Hold for 3 seconds. Stand back up slowly. Do 12 reps.
Gently moving through these postures turns your focus inward to banish stress and help lower blood pressure.
To do: Stand with your feet together and your hands together in front of your chest. Take two slow breaths. Keeping your hands together, bend at the waist and reach your fingertips down to the floor. Hold for two slow breaths, then roll back up. Do 12 reps.
This stretch promotes focus, which eases stress.
To do: Stand with feet shoulder-width apart. Turn your right foot forward and bend that knee, keeping left leg straight. Extend arms to the sides; look at your right hand. Hold for 45 seconds, breathing deeply. Switch sides.
This article originally appeared in our print magazine.