How Does Blood Pressure Change During Exercise?

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A woman exercises during an aerobic class.
A woman exercises during an aerobic class. (Image: Comstock/Comstock/Getty Images)

Gradual increase

In upright exercise with all factors remaining equal, systolic blood pressure gradually increases while diastolic blood pressure remains about the same. Diastolic pressure may even decrease due to vasodilation, or the slight dilation of blood vessels caused by the heart pumping harder to spread more oxygen throughout the body. Diastolic blood pressure is the measurement of base blood pressure, when pressure is weakest, and systolic shows pressure at peak times, when heartbeats force blood through the veins. Since systolic pressure is directly connected to how the heart operates, it is affected the most by exercise. This is a relative rule, however, since the type of exercise and the amount will change the body's blood pressure differently. Dynamic, or aerobic, exercise, will affect blood pressure differently from static exercises used to strengthen muscle groups.

In upright exercises, systolic blood pressure gradually increased while diastolic remains the same.
In upright exercises, systolic blood pressure gradually increased while diastolic remains the same. (Image: Comstock/Comstock/Getty Images)

Aerobic exercise

Dynamic exercise works the heart, consuming oxygen in the blood stream that needs to be replenished by the heart. This causes the heart to beat faster and you to breathe faster, taking in more oxygen. This brings the common rise in systolic pressure, which increases progressively as the exercise continues. You can judge the effectiveness of such exercises by measuring your pulse before, during and after your exercise, making sure that your breathing is even while taking the measurements. As an average, your cooling-down heart rate should be about 10 to 15 beats faster than your heart rate before you start warming up. If you choose to exercise, you should also take time to warm up, a period of light exercise that gradually increases heart rate to prepare it for aerobic workouts.

During dynamic exercises the heart needs to replenish the oxygen faster.
During dynamic exercises the heart needs to replenish the oxygen faster. (Image: Jupiterimages/Comstock/Getty Images)

Considerations

Static exercises focuses primarily on muscle contractions and rarely raises your heart rate because extra oxygen is not usually needed. However, contracting muscles narrow blood vessels and raise all types of blood pressure. Both types of exercise are commonly thought of as dangerous to people with coronary disease, especially those not used to physical activity. Those who are used to regular aerobic exercise may be encouraged to continue it with a doctor's permission, because their hearts are used to the activity and continuing limited aerobic workouts may keep down blood pressure. Heart rate response and therefore blood pressure can also vary depending on which part of your body you are exercising. Blood pressure response is faster when working out the arms and slower when working out the legs or the lower body. However, they both peak the same after a certain amount of time.

Static exercises such as arm curls, rarely raises your heart rate.
Static exercises such as arm curls, rarely raises your heart rate. (Image: Ryan McVay/Photodisc/Getty Images)

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