May 17, 2013
Strength training reduces blood pressure

Strength training is a major part of the 20/20 LifeStyles program.  One of the many benefits of weightlifting is to help reduce blood pressure.  Hypertension, a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease, is the definition for chronic elevated blood pressure in the arteries.  In the US today, 1 out of 3 Americans are diagnosed with Hypertension with a blood pressure of 140/90 mmHg or higher.  If you suffer from Hypertension or borderline high blood pressure, consult your primary care physician before you start any exercise program. 

When you are cleared, there is good news! Strength or resistance training can significantly help to open up your arterial walls and aid in reducing blood pressure.  In a recent study from the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), strength training over a period of 2 or more months produced lowering blood pressure responses over time that were similar to the blood pressure responses during cardio activity.  Clients who were diagnosed with high blood pressure were placed on a 20 minute cardio session followed by a 20 minute strength training circuit program.  The outcome after 2 months showed a reduction of 13 mmHg in both the systolic (contraction of arterial walls) and diastolic (relaxation of arterial walls) resting blood pressure readings. 

So what type of strength training is the best method to normalizing your blood pressure?  According to the ACSM study, each subject performed a full body circuit of 1 set at 12-15 repetitions at 70-80% of their maximum resistance.   Thus, it is recommended to train at lower resistances with higher reps.  The purpose of the higher repetitions is to help build endurance strength similar to the responses during aerobic activity.  This is comparable to the strength training protocol 20/20 personal trainers execute during your workouts, 1 set at 15-20 repetitions. 

In contrast, not all strength training programs can help reduce blood pressure.  According to ACSM, it is recommended that heavy weight lifting to failure with lower repetitions should be avoided.  Lifting such heavy weights can result in holding your breath for significant periods of time causing a spike in blood pressure readings.  When strength training, your breathing pattern should be regular and steady throughout exhaling during the lifting phase and inhaling during the lowering phase of each repetition.

If you are not familiar with whether or not your current strength training program is helping with lowering your blood pressure, consult with your 20/20 personal trainer.  They will gladly answer any questions or build you a program design that caters to your health needs.  Most importantly, they are there to watch your form and make sure you are safe throughout.  Good luck and cheers to making the decision to get healthier every day! 


Written by Nelson Lau

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