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What Is Exercise Hypertension?

Laura M. Sands
Updated May 17, 2024
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Exercise hypertension is characterized by a person experiencing a significant rise in blood pressure while engaging in physical exercise. Medical research, including research in sports medicine, indicates that this particular type of hypertension may lead to a permanent rise in blood pressure that is evident even when a person is not engaging in strenuous activity. The root cause of exercise hypertension is not fully known, but researchers believe that it may be attributed to the cells located in a person’s blood vessels not expanding wide enough to allow an increase in blood circulation during exercise.

When testing blood pressure, measurements are divided into two categories: systolic and diastolic. Systolic measurements indicate the amount of pressure in the arteries during heart beats and diastolic measurements indicate the amount of pressure present in the arteries at the intervals between heart beats. Both measurements are performed by assessing how many millimeters of mercury are present at these times. A normal systolic measurement should not exceed 120 millimeters (mm) of mercury, while a normal diastolic measurement should not exceed 80 mm of mercury.

As a person engages in strenuous activity such as physical exercise, blood circulation naturally increases and systolic measurements may rise to approximately 200 mm of mercury. Under such circumstances, this rise is not generally considered to be abnormal. Individuals with exercise hypertension, however, routinely experience levels of 250 mm or greater during a strenuous workout. Although such increases are only temporary, this elevation is dangerously high.

Exercise is highly recommended by medical professionals as a remedy for hypertension. Normally, when combined with dietary changes, lifestyle changes and other therapies, exercise is known to help stabilize blood pressure and bring high readings down to more normal and healthy levels. Individuals who suffer from exercise hypertension, however, find the opposite to be true. When blood pressure levels are known to rise too high during exercise, medical experts recommend switching to less rigorous forms of exercise or immediately stopping exercise in an effort to bring levels back to a normal range.

People with exercise hypertension may appear to be healthy and fit, but this unnatural rise may be a precursor to elevated blood pressure levels even when at rest. In fact, exercise hypertension is counted as a risk factor to developing chronic hypertension, which may lead to heart disease. Experts recommend that individuals with this condition pay close attention to resting blood pressure levels to determine if or when exercise hypertension becomes chronic hypertension.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Laura M. Sands
By Laura M. Sands
Laura Sands, the founder of a publishing company, brings her passion for writing and her expertise in digital publishing to her work. With a background in social sciences and extensive online work experience, she crafts compelling copy and content across various platforms. Her ability to understand and connect with target audiences makes her a skilled contributor to any content creation team.
Discussion Comments
By Rundocuri — On Jun 26, 2014

This type of blood pressure issue may indicate lifestyle choices that need to be addressed. For example, if you eat a poor diet and find that you have exercise hypertension, making dietary changes may correct the problem before it worsens.

By Raynbow — On Jun 25, 2014

In order to track exercise hypertension, anyone who is planning on taking up an exercise program should prepare for it by taking his or her blood pressure readings for several weeks prior to working out. If exercise hypertension is suspected, a visit to the doctor is in order to take control of the problem before it gets worse.

Laura M. Sands
Laura M. Sands
Laura Sands, the founder of a publishing company, brings her passion for writing and her expertise in digital publishing...
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