Can you skip your workout and just take care of your daily exercise at work, if you have a job that involves physical activity? Not if you want to reduce your blood pressure, according to a new study. The study found that recreational exercise for four hours each week was linked to a 19 percent lower risk of developing high blood pressure. But the health benefit did not extend to those who had similar levels of physical activity during the course of their work. They had the same high blood pressure risk as those in less physically taxing jobs.
Why should that be? Shouldn’t physical activity be physical activity, regardless of if you’re at the gym, running on the boardwalk or building a new road?
Apparently, there’s a difference between “recreational” and “occupational” exercise. When we do exercise on our own time, we often vary the activities and stop when we’re tired. Our frame of mind is relaxed. Physical activity on the job is often repetitive and workers don’t have the option of stopping when they feel overwhelmed. There’s stress involved. Another interesting point is that exercise that involves the upper body–often the type that’s on-the-job–will generally raise blood pressure, especially if strenuous and repetitive. Lower body exercise like running or swimming is ideal for cardiovascular health and blood pressure reduction.
There’s also a phenomenon called “masked hypertension” which is normal blood pressure in the doctor’s office and high blood pressure in the workplace or other high stress area. Exercise is known to reduce blood pressure, generally speaking, but if done in an environment where there’s stress, such as a workplace, it will not help.
Bottom Line: If you find time to exercise away from the workplace in a no-stress zone, there’s a good chance you will be able to reduce your risk of high blood pressure.