Blood pressure is one of the most important attributes that indicate the general health of a person, irrespective of his or her age group. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has claimed that 120/80 mm Hg is the ‘normal’ blood pressure which includes both the systolic and the diastolic readings. With the constant increase in the number of people being affected by high blood pressure, preventing hypertension has become a primary global public health challenge due to the prediction of 60% increase in the number of people being affected by hypertension by 2025 (1). A person’s blood pressure may normally increase during any physical activity especially during exercise and physical exertion. Exercising seems to have a direct effect on your systolic blood pressure which is the reading of the blood vessel pressure at the time your heartbeats. The diastolic blood pressure indicates at the pressure in the vessels between the heartbeats. This does not change much at the time of exercising. In case it does, it is a matter of concern and you must consult your doctor at once. Let us now understand in details how exercise affects blood pressure.
How Does Exercise Affect Blood Pressure Level?
It has been widely agreed that exercising on a daily basis is one of the imperative elements for a healthy lifestyle. Exercise as a practice can have a profound influence on the levels of your blood pressure. Exercising often elevates the level of your blood pressure but this change is a rather temporary one and your blood pressure level often returns to normal once you start relaxing and settling back from your workout sessions. The faster your blood pressure level returns to normal, the healthier you are supposed to be.
The level of blood pressure in humans after workout sessions differs from case to case. An ideal normal blood pressure level in humans soon after workout sessions is not known until now. What is normal in the case of one person might be an abnormal one for another person. After exercise, even if the blood pressure is a high reading of 140/90 mmHg is permissible; however, if the reading is within 90/60mm Hg it can be said as low blood pressure (2).
Exercises such as cycling, swimming, and running create additional pressure on the cardiovascular system. Since your muscles are in need of a greater amount of oxygen you need to breathe more quickly. Just like oxygen, your muscles are also in need of a greater amount of blood supply. This is why the heart has to pump more blood and at a faster rate. This results in an increase in the systolic blood pressure. It is due to this reason that the rise of systolic blood pressure during your exercise sessions is quite normal. During this time the systolic reading can come up to 160 to 220mm Hg. However, if this reading goes any further it could lead to a heart problem. In such a situation it is best that you consult your doctor at once. There could be a number of factors that can lead to a spike of the blood pressure during sessions of exercising.
Some common factors are those of the prior medical conditions of the person, the kind of medicines that he or she is taking and also the dietary pattern of the person. Exercise hypertension is one of the conditions that can lead to a sudden increase in blood pressure in some people. In such conditions, a systolic blood pressure level of 250 mm Hg is also quite normal. However, you must keep an eye on the number of hours after which the blood pressure level is coming back to normal. Generally, a span of two to three hours is required for the return to normalcy (2).
Is Exercising Regularly Advised for People with High Blood Pressure?
It is completely safe for people with high blood pressure or hypertension to exercise on a daily basis. In fact, working out on a regular basis can help you to keep your blood pressure in check (3, 4). Moreover, exercise has also been found to be an effective way to manage resistant hypertension (5). Aerobic exercise, resistance training exercise and concurrent training, which is a combination of aerobic exercises and resistance training, either in the same session or on separate days is found to effectively reduce levels of blood pressure and help in managing high blood pressures (6). However, if you wish to be extra careful you can consult the doctor about the same. It is feasible that certain medications will be prescribed to you to keep your blood pressure normal while you are working out. In order to attain this, you might have to take some medicines just before the workout sessions. Additionally, you can monitor your blood pressure levels just before, during and immediately after the exercise sessions. You need to be careful regarding the type of exercises that you are practicing and also the number of hours you are spending in doing exercise. It is also mandatory that you have a trainer by your side so that all possible problems can be kept at bay (2).
Exercise is considered to be one of the most important things that every person must include in their lifestyle. It is known to prevent a lot of health conditions like diabetes, high cholesterol, obesity, bone and muscle related problems etc. Exercise is also proven to help in preventing the onset of high blood pressure or hypertension (7).
However, a very quick increase in blood pressure during or immediately after exercise sessions and persistence of the same for a long period is a sign of a cardiac problem for the person. It could lead to major heart problems if proper intervention is not asked for at the right time. Hence, if you have a prior history of high blood pressure it is imperative that you do consult a doctor before starting your exercise regime.
- Kearney PM, Whelton M, Reynolds K, Muntner P, Whelton PK, He J. Global burden of hypertension: analysis of worldwide data. Lancet. 2005;365:217–23.
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