Can Strength Training Help with Blood Pressure?

Seven simple ways to improve your health and enhance your quality of life

Studies have reported several benefits of resistance training — or weight training — including strengthening of bones, muscles and connective tissues (tendons and ligaments). Additionally, weight training may lower your risk of injury. And increased muscle mass may make it easier for you to burn calories and maintain a healthy weight. You’ll feel better and stronger and want to do more.

The National Physical Activity guidelines state that adults should do muscle-strengthening activities that are moderate or high intensity and involve all major muscle groups on two or more days a week.

  • You may wish to consult with a certified fitness professional to learn safe technique before beginning a strength-training program. One set of eight to 12 repetitions, working the muscles to the point of fatigue, is usually sufficient for each muscle group.
  • Aim to exercise each muscle group at least two times per week, with a minimum of two days of rest between workouts.
  • Training more frequently or adding more sets may lead to slightly greater gains, but the minimal added benefit may not be worth the extra time and effort — not to mention the added risk of injury.

Not all strength training needs to be weight training. A 2013 study suggested that isometric hand grip exercises may help lower blood pressure. Researchers reported that only four weeks of these exercises resulted in a 10 percent drop in both blood pressure measures. The authors caution that isometric exercise should be avoided among people with severely uncontrolled high blood pressure (180/110 mm Hg or higher).

Aerobic exercise, however, HAS shown evidence of reducing systolic and diastolic blood pressure by an average of 2 to 5 mm Hg and 1 to 4 mm Hg, respectively. Regular brisk walking is a great way to start getting more physical activity. You don’t need to become a marathoner.

For overall cardiovascular health:

  • At least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity each week OR
  • At least 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity each week;
  • or an equal combination of moderate- and vigorous intensity aerobic activity.
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