Is strength training bad for blood pressure?

by Lisa Nelson, RD, LN Health Professional

Lifting weights can cause a temporary, but drastic blood pressure rise depending on the amount of weight you lift. Systolic blood pressure (top number) can increase up to 350-400 mm Hg and diastolic blood pressure (bottom number) to 150 mm Hg even if your blood pressure is typically a normal healthy level of 120/80 or less.

Long term high blood pressure is linked to arterial endothelial dysfunction. The endothelium is the inner lining of your artery walls. This endothelial dysfunction can result in atherosclerosis (hardening of artery walls) and heart disease. Researchers have been monitoring the effects of acute/short duration rises in blood pressure, such as what occurs during strength training, to determine the effect on endothelial function. It's been determined acute rises in blood pressure impairs endothelial function in untrained individuals and regular resistance training helps protect against vascular dysfunction.

At one time, strength lifting was discouraged if you lived with high blood pressure. However, this is no longer the recommendation. Regular physical activity that includes moderate strength training helps promote a lower blood pressure. A study published in Hypertension monitored participants completing resistance training 2 to 5 times per week and found strength training to help lower resting blood pressure.

Including strength training and aerobic physical activity can be a positive step towards lowering blood pressure; however, you must consult your physician before beginning an exercise and/or strength training program. Strength training is not recommended if you have uncontrolled high blood pressure, untreated heart disease, or an irregular heart rate.

The current American Heart Association recommends individuals 18 to 65 years-old include moderate intensity aerobic physical activity 5 days a week for a minimum of 30 minutes and strength training at least twice a week.

Here are some guidelines for strength training if you have high blood pressure:

  1. Stop activity immediately if you become dizzy, extremely short of breath, or experience chest pain.

  2. Breathe while lifting weights. Holding your breath can result in dangerous blood pressure spikes.

  3. Use less weight and complete more repetitions.

  4. Work with a professional to learn proper form and lifting technique to prevent injury.

Remember, it's essential you consult your physician prior to beginning an activity regime. Be sure to sign-up for the free e-course 7 Natural Ways to Lower Blood Pressure.

Lisa Nelson, RD, LN
Meet Our Writer
Lisa Nelson, RD, LN

Lisa Nelson RD, a registered dietitian since 1999, provides step-by-step guidance to lower cholesterol and lower blood pressure, so you can live life and enjoy your family for years to come. Lisa's passion for health comes from her own family history of heart disease, so she doesn't dispense trendy treatments; Lisa practices what she teaches in her own daily life. Because her own health is the foundation of her expertise, you can trust that Lisa will make it truly possible for you to see dramatic changes in your health, without unrealistic fads or impossibly difficult techniques.