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Paul Rogers

Weight Training Lowers Blood Pressure Over Time, But Caution in the Gym Still Warranted for Hypertensives

By July 6, 2009

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Lifting a heavy weight or doing a heavy pressing movement like a leg press can raise blood pressure to numbers like 350 systolic (the top number) to 150 diastolic (the bottom number) -- even in people with normal blood pressure of 120/80. Running can also raise systolic blood pressure to around 200, but usually without raising diastolic pressure much at all.

For this reason, in the past, people with heart disease or high blood pressure have been advised to stay away from weight training.

However, several analyses of scientific studies of people doing weight training seem to show that progressive weight training lowers blood pressure by 2% to 4%. Other recent advisories suggest that weight training is acceptable for people recovering from heart disease. So what's the story?

Common sense comes into play here. First, get your regular doctor's opinion. He should know the state of your cardiovascular system better than anyone. If your blood pressure has been high, but is now under control, he may suggest that light, progressive weight training is okay. That is, build up slowly after starting with light exercise. And unless you're an advanced weight lifter or powerlifter, you should give the valsalva maneuver a miss -- a technique in which you virtually hold your breath under pressure of the lift or press. Exhaling on exertion is important.

If you have uncontrolled hypertension, or an unstable heart condition, you may get a "no' from the doc until things improve.

Kelley GA, Kelley KS. Progressive resistance exercise and resting blood pressure : A meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Hypertension. 2000 Mar;35(3):838-43.
Cornelissen VA, Fagard RH. Effect of resistance training on resting blood pressure: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. J Hypertens. 2005 Feb;23(2):251-9.

August 18, 2009 at 1:52 am
(1) Tony Phillips says:

A nice introduction to exercise and high blood pressure. But research now gives a lot of weight (sorry about the pun) to specific levels of resistance training. According to Weightlifting For Lower Blood Pressure, research recommends a single set of reps several times a week for hypertension reduction.

November 9, 2011 at 4:46 pm
(2) Lorrell Cooper says:

I am 69 yrs old. My blood pressure has always been around 120 over 78. I have mostly, been in good cardiovascular condition. My heart rate is low….40′s and 50′s. In March thi year I started lifting weights and have made dramatic inctreses in weight and reps in that time. At my annual physical my bolld pressure was about 140 over 90. Sence then I have been monotoring it regular and see weithlifting does alter my BP. On a day I work out, my bp will be 110 to 120 over around 60. The day inbetween workouts my bp will be in the 120′s/80 area. If I miss two or three days it will go up to upper 130′s or 140′s over around 75 to 80. Has lifting weights caused my higher bp when I miss a workout.

November 11, 2012 at 12:49 pm
(3) Louis Patyk says:

Me, I am 76 years old and have been lifting from 15 years of age.
That is a long time and I did this with Hypertension. However, and I must stress this one important fact that no one seems to address.
Lifting can and will raise blood pressure. Any exertion will temporally raise blood pressure. The only time your pressure will not rise is if you are dead.
Now I am not a doctor, but I have seen many. and it is resting pressure that is of concern.
Only a doctor can tell if that elevated pressure is the condition, as essential hypertension or a symptom of something else.
Why any one, in the many articles I have read on this subject would try to give you or any one else the go ahead, lift as it is good for you, or change your diet, or add cardio without a complete workup by a medical doctor is a crime and I would run from any one who gives advice without that.
Remember, this person has never seen you, talked to you or knows anything about your med. history.
Go see a doctor. a few bucks spent on one is far better than hundreds of thousands spent by your loved ones to keep you if you have a major stroke or kidney failure
Bottom line, don’t listen to the quacks who think they know what is best for you.
Do what you know to be the right thing.

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