What happens to your blood pressure when you exercise?
Everyone says that exercise is good for blood pressure, but how exactly does it work is the question. The immediate response to exercise is not bringing down blood pressure, but a steady increase with progressive exercise. It is the systolic blood pressure which usually rises with exercise. Systolic blood pressure is the pressure measured when the heart contracts. It is higher than the diastolic blood pressure which is measured when the heart relaxes after a contraction. Diastolic blood pressure does not usually rise much with exercise and it may fall a bit. The systolic blood pressure rises because of increased force of contraction of the heart. Sympathetic nervous system activity increases when you exercise. This causes release of hormones like adrenaline into the circulation. Increase in blood pressure is due to the activity of the sympathetic nervous system and adrenaline. Diastolic pressure may rise in those who already have high blood pressure before exercise. Exercise is not advisable if you already have high blood pressure. It has to be controlled under medical supervision before you start an exercise program.
Then what is the beneficial effect of exercise on blood pressure?
Even though the immediate response of blood pressure to exercise is an increase, regular exercise brings down the basal blood pressure in the long run. It also reduces the rise with exercise so that similar grades of exercise in a person who exercises regularly have a lower rise than those who are deconditioned without out any exercise. Similarly the heart rate also rises with exercise, but more so in deconditioned individuals. The resting heart will be lower in those who take regular prolonged exercise (athlete’s bradycardia). Regular exercise also has other long term salutary effects in that it reduces the risk for diseases of the heart and blood vessels. It improves our fitness, feeling of well being and helps in maintain desirable weight, blood sugar and blood fat levels. So you should looking beyond what happens to your blood pressure when you exercise!