What Happens to your blood pressure during exercise?

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Do you know what happens to your blood pressure during exercise? why do you need to monitor your blood pressure closely?

There are many reasons to monitor your blood pressure. The most important reason being the assessment of efficacy and safety of exercise.

It is understood through many research studies that monitoring blood pressure during exercise can provide clinical information that can help in identifying chronic health risks.

However, inaccuracy of blood pressure measurement can lead to severe consequences of prehypertension. It is advisable to rest for at least 3-5 minutes after exercising for blood pressure measurement.

What is Blood Pressure?

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), blood pressure is a pressure that pushes blood against the walls of arteries.

These arteries carry the blood from the heart to other parts of the body. There are two types for the measurement of blood pressure called systolic and diastolic blood pressure.

Systolic Blood Pressure

When your heart beats, it creates pressure on the walls of your arteries called systolic blood pressure.

For example, your doctor writes 120/80 mmHg as your blood pressure reading. Now, the upper level with 120 is the systolic blood pressure.

Diastolic Blood Pressure

It is a measure of pressure on the walls of your arteries when your heart rests between the two heartbeats.

For example, your doctor gives you 120/80 mmHg as your blood pressure reading. You can understand that the lower level with 80 is the diastolic blood pressure.

What is normal blood pressure?

To consider normal, a person should have a systolic blood pressure of less than 120 mmHg and diastolic blood pressure less than 80 mmHg.

Blood pressure above 140/90 mmHg indicates that the person has hypertension and reading between 120/80 mmHg to 139/89 mmHg indicates prehypertension.

If you have high blood pressure during exercise, you can take steps to keep your blood pressure in a healthy zone like eating healthy diets, maintaining healthy body weight, being physically active, limiting alcohol consumption, avoid smoking, and getting enough sleep.

These simple and effective steps can you in achieving normal blood pressure.

Normal blood pressure by age

Blood pressure is produced by the contraction of heart muscles and record by two numbers called systolic and diastolic blood pressure.

The table below shows the normal blood pressure reading according to their age for both men and female. SBP stands for systolic blood pressure and DBP stands for diastolic blood pressure.

normal blood pressure by age
Normal blood pressure by age

What happens to blood pressure during exercise?

Aerobic activities like exercising, jogging, running, swimming, and cycling can assert an extra burden on your cardiovascular system and your muscles may need additional oxygen.

  • Your systolic blood pressure will increase while your heart starts pumping faster to circulate blood and deliver oxygen to your muscles.
  • Your systolic blood pressure can increase from 120 to 220 mmHg but it is normal during exercise unless your doctor warns for it. Systolic blood pressure above 220 mmHg during exercise can increase your risk for cardiovascular diseases.
  • Factors like medical conditions, medications that you follow, and your diet can also influence the response of your cardiovascular system to exercise.
  • You can notice that your blood pressure will drop to normal after few hours of exercise. 

An increase or decrease in blood pressure during exercise can also mean that there are medical conditions.

According to the study on ‘effects of aerobic exercise on blood pressure during exercise‘ written by KIM IK and So-Hyung Kang, an exercising group has less increase in systolic and diastolic blood pressure as compared to the non-exercising group. It is believed that exercise has positive effects on your blood pressure.

Common causes of spikes in high blood pressure

Certain people with high blood pressure can experience a sudden spike in their blood pressure level for a short period due to some of the following reasons:

  • chronic kidney diseases and malfunctions
  • use of caffeine
  • use of cocaine
  • use of anti-inflammatory drugs
  • pregnancy-related
  • smoking, and
  • anxiety

Increase in blood pressure

You should seek medical attention if your blood pressure crosses 180/120 mmHg or greater. This range of blood pressure can mean a sign of heart stroke.

An exponential increase in your blood pressure during exercise or after exercise is a sign of:

  • exercise hypertension
  • being at risk (prehypertension)

Decrease in blood pressure

A decrease in blood pressure during exercise or after exercise is a sign of:

  • being at risk for heart diseases
  • being in a stage of developing hypertension

Can hypertension patients do exercise?

Whether you are hypertension or you are at risk of hypertension (prehypertension), it is safe to exercise or workout but you should speak to your doctors for safety measures which include:

  • avoiding high impact workouts
  • medicines to reduce your blood pressure during exercise
  • develop a daily exercise plan

Can hypotension patients do exercise?

People with low blood pressure can also do exercise. You should consult your doctors for the safest way to exercise to avoid symptoms like dizziness, nausea, and blurred vision.

Exercise for hypotension patients can be beneficial and help in improving blood circulation.

You should choose moderate exercises like brisk walking, walking, and avoid high-impact workouts.

When should you seek medical attention?

If you have the following signs and symptoms, you should consult your doctor for safety advice:

  • when there’s a drastic increase in your blood pressure during exercise or after workouts
  • when there is a drop in your blood pressure
  • when there is no change in your blood pressure during exercise
  • when systolic pressure goes beyond 200 mmHg during or after exercise
  • when your blood pressure goes beyond 120/80 mmHg during or after exercise

Simple tips for safe exercising

Exercise helps in regulating your blood pressure. You can follow these simple tips to practice safe exercise:

  • Exercise in moderation to keep your blood pressure in check
  • Before going for workouts or high impact exercises, consult your doctor
  • warm-up to avoid injuries 
  • Don’t stop exercising suddenly. Provide a proper cool-down period especially for hypertension people 

How can exercise lower blood pressure?

According to recent studies, regular exercise with moderation can keep your heart strong and pump more blood with less effort. This can help in decreasing the pressure on arteries, thereby lowering your blood pressure.

There aren’t enough studies to prove that how much can exercise lower blood pressure but studies notice that there is a reduction of 3 to 6 systolic pressure and 4 to 12 mmHg in diastolic pressure.

Regular exercise can also help in maintaining healthy body weight. Maintaining a healthy body weight is another way of controlling blood pressure. Overweight people can significantly lower their blood pressure by losing approximately 2.3 kilograms.

How much exercise do you need?

As per the recommendations from the health professionals, you need about 150 minutes of moderate aerobic workouts every week. This can be calculated as approximately 21 minutes of moderate activity each day.

It is recommended for 75 minutes of vigorous workouts every week which can also be calculated to approximately 10 minutes of vigorous aerobic exercises each day.

In general, you should aim for 30 minutes of moderate exercise every day of the week.

A moderate exercise can help in increasing your breathing rates and improve your overall health. These moderate exercises include:

  • games like basketball, tennis, volleyball
  • cycling
  • dancing
  • jogging
  • brisk walking
  • swimming

Interesting facts related to high blood pressure

  • High blood pressure can be an indicator of some underlying medical conditions
  • Lowering the upper number in blood pressure reading (systolic) can help in reducing the health risk
  • Sometimes you may notice high blood pressure in the doctor’s chamber only. You should try measuring at your home too
  • Stress is linked with hypertension and you should learn to cope up with it
  • Good sleep can help in managing high blood pressure
  • Salt is a key driver for high blood pressure. Reduce the consumption of salt

Can drinking lots of water lower blood pressure?

The absolute answer is yes. Almost 73 percent of the human heart is made of water. We cannot compare other beverages with water in terms of controlling blood pressure health.

Furthermore, the addition of minerals like magnesium and calcium to the water can improve its ability to control blood pressure.

How much does blood pressure vary during the day?

Blood pressure will be normal in the morning and it will continue to rise during the day with the highest blood pressure during midday. Blood pressure will become low as the day descends to evening and the blood pressure will be at the lowest during the night while you sleep, also called nocturnal blood pressure.

Is 139 over 94 a good blood pressure?

Normal blood pressure is less than 120 over 80 mmHg and reading with 139 over 94 mmHg indicates that you already are prehypertensive or in a stage of developing stage 1 hypertension symptoms.

Final Thoughts

It is normal to notice an increase in blood pressure during exercise and drop while you do nothing. However, you should monitor extreme spikes in blood pressure.

Regular exercise is key to healthy blood pressure levels. It usually takes about 2 to 3 months of regular exercise to show an impact on your blood pressure and get its benefit as long as you continue the exercise.