Mayo Clinic Health Library

Question

Weightlifting: Bad for your blood pressure?

Is weightlifting safe if I have high blood pressure?

Updated: 12-16-2011

Answer

Maybe. It depends how high your blood pressure is. According to the American Heart Association, you should not lift weights if your blood pressure is uncontrolled — meaning it's higher than 180/110 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg). If your blood pressure is between 140 to 170 mm Hg systolic or 90 to 109 mm Hg diastolic, check with your doctor before starting a weightlifting program to discuss any precautions or special considerations.

Weightlifting can cause a temporary increase in blood pressure. This increase can be dramatic — depending on how much weight you lift. But, weightlifting can also have long-term benefits to blood pressure that outweigh the risk of a temporary spike for most people.

Regular exercise, including moderate weightlifting, provides many health benefits, including helping to lower blood pressure in the long term.

If you have high blood pressure, talk to your doctor before starting any exercise program. Your doctor can help you develop an exercise program tailored to your needs and medical conditions.

If you have high blood pressure, here are some tips for getting started on a weightlifting program:

  • Learn and use proper form when lifting to reduce the risk of injury.
  • Don't hold your breath. Holding your breath during exertion can cause dangerous spikes in blood pressure. Instead, breathe easily and continuously during each lift.
  • Lift lighter weights more times. Heavier weights require more strain, which can cause a greater increase in blood pressure. You can challenge your muscles with lighter weights by increasing the number of repetitions you lift.
  • Alternate between upper and lower body exercises to let your muscles rest during exercise.

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