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Is Exercise Dangerous for High/Low Blood Pressure?

It’s no secret that high blood pressure is a bad thing. The magic number is 120/80, and doctors often prefer it to be lower. High blood pressure is bad for your heart, but is it dangerous to exercise if you have it?

The answer is, as with most things: it depends. When you workout, your blood pressure naturally rises. That’s because your heart needs to pump blood faster. It’s similar to using a hose to water your plants. If you want the water to move faster, you can gently squeeze the hose.

Increasing blood pressure pumps blood faster, but there’s another way that exercise can raise blood pressure. Lifting weights, particularly exercises like the deadlift or squat, can cause you to reflexively perform something called the Valsalva maneuver. That’s the term for holding your breath as you lift a weight.

The Valsalva maneuver raises your blood pressure, sometimes significantly. So, if you have high blood pressure, this is definitely something you want to avoid. Generally speaking, cardio is safer for people with dangerously high blood pressure (over 150).

After your workout, blood pressure usually drops. It remains lower for hours, which is very good for people with high blood pressure. Over time, as you get in better shape, exercise causes consistently lower blood pressure.

If you have low blood pressure, you’re generally considered healthier. However, there are some things you need to watch out for. Dehydration, for example, can make your blood pressure too low. If you know that you normally have low blood pressure, you should make it a point to stay hydrated during workouts.

Another issue for people with low blood pressure is the natural decrease in blood pressure after an exercise stops. When muscles contract, they push blood through your circulatory system faster. When you cease exercising, you no longer have that increase in blood flow, and your blood pressure can drop.

If you often feel faint or dizzy after workouts, avoid sitting down or abruptly stopping your workout. Take time to walk around, cool down, and let you body adjust to avoid letting your blood pressure drop too low.

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