Does Strength Training Affect Blood Pressure?

Good boomer health requires regular exercise to stay strong, flexible and to keep excess weight off. But, can too much of a good thing be harmful to your health in the way of elevated blood pressure?

The Mayo Clinic actually advises at least 30 minutes a day of aerobic exercise as a natural way to lower blood pressure. They state that daily exercise so can lower your blood pressure by 4 to 9 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg).

Woman Lifting Weights

O.K. that’s aerobic exercise, but what about weight lifting? Older men and women, more so than younger adults, face muscle loss due to sarcopenia. The antidote to sarcopenia is to keep a regular regiment of resistance training to mitigate loss of lean muscle mass. The added benefit is muscle eats fat 24/7. But can all that straining during resistance training actually raise your blood pressure?

To get the answer we asked Dr. Wayne Westcott, PhD, who has authored or co-authored 22 books on fitness including Strength Training Past 50, Strength Training for Seniors. He conducted no less than 5 major studies on the topic of weight training’s effect on blood pressure.

Here’s what he told us:

The most pervasive misconception in the field of exercise is that strength training raises blood pressure (both resting and exercise readings) to dangerous levels, and is, therefore, a contraindicated physical activity for many middle-aged and older adults.

Although it is true that people with certain medical conditions should not perform resistance exercise (e.g., uncontrolled hypertension, aneurism). It is also true that certain resistance training actions can elevate blood pressure beyond recommended exercise readings (e.g., breath holding, isometric holding, and extreme heavy weight load).

The conclusions of all his studies was that when sensibly applied, weight training does not elevate resting blood pressure. In fact, properly performed resistance exercise can produce beneficial blood pressure adaptations in as little as 2 months of regular strength training.

So, get to the gym and keep your weight training in place. Just don’t hold your breath while you exercise.

Her are Dr. Westcott’s guidelines for sensible strength training:

Dr. Wayne Westcott, PhD.

Never hold your breath when performing resistance exercise.

Use weight loads that can be performed with correct exercise technique for at least 8 controlled repetitions.

Keep the weight load moving throughout each exercise set, taking about 2 seconds for the lifting actions and about 4 seconds for the lowering actions. Never hold your weight load in a static muscle contraction.

Keep breathing throughout each exercise set, exhaling during the lifting actions and inhaling during the lowering actions.

Use relatively loose hand grips whenever possible.

Keep your face and neck muscles as relaxed as possible throughout each set of exercise.