Research Review: Weight lifting improves blood pressure

To begin, it’s important to acknowledge the obvious: weight lifting improves blood pressure. This is true in a general sense, but the benefits of weight lifting apply to everyone. Weightlifting is a great way to improve overall health, which has a direct impact on our blood pressure. Weight lifting has been proven to greatly reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke.

Last year, a study was published in the European Journal of Applied Physiology that looked at the effects of weight training on blood pressure. Researchers found that among those who had reduced weight training, there was a significant reduction in blood pressure that correlated with the amount of weight lost. The study, which included a control group, looked at 50 young adults, split into two groups: one that engaged in regular weight training, or an inactive control group.

A lot of people don’t like to do cardio (running, swimming, etc.), because it makes them feel like crap afterwards. And sometimes they don’t want to do HIIT either, because they’re afraid of the risk of injury. Don’t worry, there’s a third option: weight lifting.

In middle-aged hypertensive males, a regular weight-training regimen reduced blood pressure. Before you resort to self-medication, think about getting some exercise.

If you ask your doctor what activity will help you improve your health — whether it’s reducing weight, improving your cholesterol profile, or lowering your blood pressure — he or she will almost certainly recommend cardio.

Few health care specialists believe that weight training would help, and that a decent 30 minute jog 5 days a week will be far more beneficial to your health.

This is especially true in the case of high blood pressure. Many doctors believe that lifting weights is harmful to one’s blood pressure. However, according to today’s study, weight training can really aid in the treatment of hypertension.

What is the definition of blood pressure?

Blood pressure is a measurement of how high or low is a measurement of how high or low is similar to the water pressure in your home’s pipes. It’s a tally of two factors:

  • the diameter/size of the “pipes”
  • how much liquid is pumped through those pipes?

It’s beneficial to have a lot of water pressure. High blood pressure, on the other hand, causes vascular damage. It has been related to stroke, heart disease, and death at a young age.

Taking blood pressure readings

When you visit the doctor, they will take your blood pressure and give you two numbers, such as “110/80.”

  • The systolic pressure — when your heart contracts and pushes blood out of your heart — is the first and higher figure.
  • The diastolic pressure — when the heart is relaxed and blood is filling the heart — is the second and lower value.

All of these figures are expressed in millimetres of mercury (mm Hg), the same unit of measurement used to express other types of pressure such as barometric pressure.

Table 1 shows normal blood pressure and various levels of high blood pressure (hypertension).

It can be a concern even if only one number is too high. Prehypertension is defined as a systolic pressure of 130 (high) and a diastolic pressure of 79 (low).

Table 1 shows how blood pressure is classified.

ClassificationSystolicDiastolic
Normal<120<80
Prehypertension120-13980-89
Hypertension in the first stage140–15990–99
Hypertension in the second stage≥160≥100

See All About High Blood Pressure for more information on blood pressure.

Question for investigation

Is it true that weight lifting can help?

Lifting weights appears to counter-intuitively improve blood pressure because blood pressure rises while weight lifting. This week’s evaluation looks at whether or not a weight-training workout program can actually help.

MR Moraes, R. Bacurau, R. Bacurau, R. Bacurau, R. Bacurau, R. Bacurau, R. Bacurau, R. Bacurau, R. Bacurau, R. Bacurau, R. Bacurau, R. Bacurau, R. Bacurau, R. Bacurau, R. Bacurau, R. Bacurau, R. Bacurau, R. Bacurau, R. In stage 1 hypertension patients, the effect of 12 weeks of resistance training on post-exercise hypotension. Hypertension: A Journal of Human Hypertension. doi: 10.1038/jhh.2011.67, 7 July 2011. [Epub before print]

Methods

Participants

The participants in this study were fifteen middle-aged (46-8) men with high blood pressure who exercised less than 2 hours per week. Any guy receiving blood pressure medication had to cease taking it six weeks prior to the commencement of the study.

Blood pressure

According to the American Heart Association, “high blood pressure” is defined as 140-159 mm Hg systolic and 90-99 mm Hg diastolic, or stage 1 hypertension (take a look at table 1). Anyone with a major medical condition was not allowed to participate.

Exercise

Three times a week, with at least one day of relaxation in between, the workout schedule was followed (ex. Monday, Wednesday and Friday). The participants conducted three sets of 12 reps at 60 percent of their 1 RM of the following exercises, which were based on 1 repetition maximums (1RM) from previous testing:

  • leg press ups
  • leg curl
  • push your chest
  • pullups on the lats
  • shoulder flexion
  • curling the biceps
  • extension of the triceps

The exercises were not done in a circuit and there was a one-minute rest between sets. Before moving on to the next exercise, all three sets were completed for one exercise.

It’s important to note that the findings of the study only apply to this sort of weight training. The main muscle adaptations of the program were increased muscular endurance and modest hypertrophy (3 sets of 12 reps). We can’t say whether other sorts of weight training programs, such as a low-rep/high-weight strength program, would be beneficial until further research is done with different types of weight training programs.

Results

Composition of the body

After twelve weeks of exercise, the males had no significant difference in body mass (8816 kg vs. 8715 kg), but greater fat-free mass (muscle included) from 61 9 kg to 64 10 kg, and less fat (279 kg vs. 238) kg (Figure 1). This resulted in a 4% reduction in body fat (from 30% to 26%) but the scale remained unchanged.

Figure 1: Pre- and post-training fat-free (lean) mass and fat mass

On average, the guys received:

  • More lean mass by 3 kg (6.6 lb) (likely muscle, water and glycogen)
  • Fat loss of 4 kg (8.8 lb)
  • 4% body fat reduction
  • Total body weight: 1 kg (2.2 lb)

Not bad — these guys dropped nearly a third of a kilogram of fat per week with no changes to their diet (0.55 lb).

Did I mention that using the scale to track changes in body composition is a bad idea?

Blood pressure

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Weight exercise does lower blood pressure, so the answer is yes.

After 12 weeks on the regimen, both systolic and diastolic blood pressure dropped to 16 and 12 mm Hg, respectively (Figure 2). The reduction was significant enough to move the group average from stage 1 hypertension (150/93) to prehypertension (134/81).

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Figure 2: Blood pressure changes after 12 weeks of weight training

Conclusion

Weight training three times a week for twelve weeks lowers blood pressure in middle-aged males (46 years old) with high blood pressure.

The average drop in systolic pressure was 16 mm Hg, which is comparable to or better than any other lifestyle change (see Table 2).

Given that a 20 mm Hg increase in systolic blood pressure doubles the risk of ischemic heart disease and stroke, lowering systolic blood pressure by nearly 20 mm Hg (16 mm Hg) with weight training cuts your risk in half.

Table 2: Modifications to one’s lifestyle to avoid and control hypertension [1]

ChangeSYSTOLIC BLOOD PRESSURE REDUCTION
3 times per week, weight training (as studied)16 mm Hg
Salt reduction to 2.4 g sodium2-8 mm Hg
Most days of the week, do at least 30 minutes of aerobic activity.4-9 mm Hg
Loss of weight10 kg/5-10 mm Hg

If a patient’s blood pressure is more than 20 mm Hg higher than the normal range (i.e., over 140 mm Hg), two medications or a combination drug are usually prescribed. So these gentlemen have two choices:

  • Option A: train out for a little over 2 hours per week and reap a slew of benefits such as increased muscle mass and decreased fat mass, increased strength, stress release (which also lowers blood pressure), and improved nude appearance.
  • Option B: take a pricey drug that may have side effects such as coughing, dizziness, food flavor changes, and constipation.

I’d say it’s a pretty obvious decision.

In conclusion

Weight training alone can reduce blood pressure in middle-aged men with high blood pressure by nearly half, lowering their risk of ischemic heart disease and stroke.

If you’re worried about your blood pressure, start with a good fitness regimen that includes weight lifting before turning to medicine.

References

To see the information sources mentioned in this article, go here.

  1. Izzo JL Jr, Jones DW, Materson BJ, Oparil S, Wright JT Jr, Roccella EJ; Joint National Committee on Prevention, Detection, Evaluation, and Treatment of High Blood Pressure. Chobanian AV, Bakris GL, Black HR, Cushman WC, Green LA, Izzo JL Jr, Jones DW, Materson BJ, Oparil S, Wright JT Jr, Roccella EJ; Joint National Committee on The Joint National Committee on High Blood Pressure Prevention, Detection, Evaluation, and Treatment’s seventh report. National High Blood Pressure Education Program Coordinating Committee; National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Epub 2003 Dec 1;42(6):1206-52. Hypertension. 2003 Dec;42(6):1206-52.

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Lifting weights has been proven to lower our blood pressure and blood pressure is thought to play a major role in the development of heart disease. So if you want to keep your heart healthy, you should get active and lift some weights.. Read more about does lifting weights lower blood sugar and let us know what you think.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does weight lifting help blood pressure?

Yes, weight lifting can help to lower blood pressure.

Is cardio or weights better for blood pressure?

This is a difficult question to answer. Cardio can be good for your heart, but it can also lead to overtraining and muscle breakdown. Weight training has been shown to have many benefits, but it can also lead to injury.

How long does blood pressure stay elevated after weight lifting?

Blood pressure can remain elevated for a few hours after weight lifting.

Related Tags

This article broadly covered the following related topics:

  • bodybuilding blood pressure
  • weight lifting and blood pressure
  • blood pressure during weight lifting
  • what exercises should be avoided with high blood pressure?
  • powerlifting blood pressure

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