How to Do Hand Grip Exercises to Lower Blood Pressure
There are several studies which now show that doing simple hand grip exercises can lower blood pressure. However, doing any old hand gripping exercises won’t necessarily work. You have to do them in a certain way for them to be effective in lower your blood pressure. So the question is how to do hand grip exercises to lower blood pressure?
Hand grip exercise devices
To do handgrip devices, you’ll need something to grip.
There are various options. Most simply, you can use basic handgripper devices. These devices are designed to be used for building hand grip strength. However, you can use them to do blood pressure-lowering hand grip exercises instead. You can even just use a squeezable ball.
One thing that’s quite crucial about doing handgrip exercises for lowering blood pressure is that you’re gripping the correct amount – one third of your full grip strength. There’s more details on this below. This means that it’s very useful to have a device that shows your grip strength so you can make sure you’re gripping the right amount.
Devices that do this vary dramatically in price. There are simple electronic handgrip devices which measure your grip strength, and there’s one sophisticated model which give you direct guidance on how much and how long to grip (this one costs a lot more!).
I’ve reviewed and compared these different devices in another post. So click here if you want more information and links to order online: handgrip exercises for lower blood pressure (scroll down a bit to see the device reviews)
So find yourself something to grip and then follow the guidelines below to get started.
How to do hand grip exercises to lower blood pressure
1. Establish the correct grip strength
The main thing to keep in mind when doing hand grip exercises to lower blood pressure is that you don’t need to grip at your full strength. In fact gripping something too tightly for too long is just going to raise your blood pressure more.
So make sure whatever device you’re using isn’t too hard for you to squeeze. You don’t want to be forcing yourself into gripping too tightly. If you’re using handgrippers, then go for low- or moderate-resistance models.
You’re aiming to be gripping your device at about 30% of your full strength.
A good way to gauge this is to grip your device as hard as you can briefly, then try gripping it again at about a third of this intensity. This is the trickiest part of doing hand grip exercises to lower blood pressure. For this reason, using a handgripper that shows your grip strength as you’re doing can be very useful.
Check your grip strength each time
You can do this grip check each time you start a set of hand grip exercises. Your grip-strength might vary slightly from day to day, or even through the day, depending on your energy levels or how you’ve been using your hands or various other factors. So establish this 30% grip at the start of each session. Then pay close attention throughout to make sure you’re keeping that level of grip.
If you decide to do the exercises with alternating hands (see below), then you need to gauge the 30% grip strength separately for each hand.
2. Follow the recommended schedule of grip and rest periods
Now you can get on with doing the exercises. The American Heart Association recommend following the protocols of the published studies on handgrip exercises for lower blood pressure.
The format used in most handgrip exercise studies is as follows:
- squeeze/grip your chosen object for 2 minutes at a time, at about a third of your full strength
- rest for a few minutes (most studies used 1 or 3 minute rest periods)
- repeat this cycle 3 more times (for a total of 4 cycles) – this works out to about 15 minutes for one session
- do a session like this 3 or 4 days a week.
Some research suggests alternating hands for each cycle is best. This would mean 2 cycles per hand in total. (In other words, grip for 2 minutes with your right hand, rest, grip for 2 minutes with your left hand, rest, repeat).
Remember to maintain a constant grip strength during the squeezing period. It’s easy to start squeezing harder without realizing or for your grip to soften a bit over time, so try to keep an eye on this.
Build up to it gradually if necessary
At first it can be quite hard to maintain a grip for two minutes even at just a third of your full strength. You can work up to it gradually though. For example, start by gripping for periods of, say, 10 seconds at a time and do a session with these short grip periods. Increase the gripping period each day until you can do it for the full two minutes each time.
3. Keep doing them!
You need to do these hand grip exercises regularly to see any blood pressure-lowering effects. Do them at least 3 – 5 times a week.
Even them, it can take a couple of months of regularly doing the hand grip exercises to see a reduction in your blood pressure. And the benefits only continue as long as you are doing the hand grip exercises. So once you’ve started, don’t stop!
Are hand grip exercises safe for me to do?
For most people hand grip exercises are perfectly safe. There are a couple of exceptions though.
Firstly, if you have any trouble using your hands then hand grip exercises might be too difficult for you. For example, if you have arthritis or carpal tunnel syndrome then you might struggle.
Secondly, if your blood pressure is very high then hand grip exercises may not be a good idea. This is because hand grip exercises work to reduce your resting blood pressure – i.e., your blood pressure when you’re not exercising. However, while you are doing hand grip exercises you often get a temporary spike in blood pressure. Once you’re finished the exercises this spike usually disappears within a few minutes. But if your blood pressure is very high this may be a little risky.
The American Heart Association recommends that “isometric exercise should be avoided among individuals with BP levels >180/110 mm Hg until their hypertension is better controlled.” (Hypertension journal, April 2013.) Be sure to speak to your doctor before doing hand grip exercises if you’re not sure if they’re safe for you.
For more easy exercises to lower blood pressure, click here to get our free report, 3 Exercises to Lower Blood Pressure (without having to get out of your chair).
Can hand grip exercises lower my blood pressure enough?
Studies suggest that if you do hand grip exercises accurately, then doing them regularly can make a noticeable difference to your blood pressure. However, they may not lower your blood pressure enough, depending on how your body responds and on how high your blood pressure is in the first place.
Lowering your blood pressure naturally to a significant degree usually depends on taking a broad approach. So, as well as doing hand grip exercises, you can use other methods to reduce your blood pressure. You can adjust some of the things you eat and drink. You can practise techniques to relax more. And you can (literally) take steps to be more active.
You’ll find a thorough overview of all the ways you can lower your blood pressure naturally in our book: Lower Your Blood Pressure Naturally – The Complete 9 Step Guide
To keep it simple, our guide outlines the various options in a straightforward way, and walks you through them in an easy-to-follow step-by-step manner.
Each step deals with different things you can do to lower your blood pressure:
- the foods and drinks to get more of or avoid
- how you can be more active in your day to day life
- how to handle your stress levels and enjoy a more relaxing life
The guide also puts a strong emphasis on how to introduce beneficial changes to your life in a way that works for you. Then you can lower your blood pressure naturally and enjoy the process 🙂
Just click on the pic for more information and a free sample chapter.
Post by Alison (Photo credit: bottled_void from flickr.com)
How to do hand grip exercises to lower blood pressure: key references:
Beyond Medications and Diet: Alternative Approaches to Lowering Blood Pressure – A Scientific Statement From the American Heart Association, Hypertension, April 2013