Should Your Blood Pressure Be 120/80 Even After Exercise?

Normal blood pressure is commonly known to be around 120 over 80 (120/80). But that does not mean that anything above or below that number isn't healthy. In fact, healthy blood pressure is generally considered within a range of blood pressure readings.

In particular, right after you've got your heart rate up with physical activity or exercise, you're likely not going to be looking at a perfect 120/80 blood pressure reading.

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Blood Pressure After Exercise

Depending on your resting blood pressure, your blood pressure may be higher than 120/80 after exercise. This idea sometimes confuses people who are being treated for hypertension (high blood pressure), especially because exercise is recommended as a way to lower blood pressure.

It is true that getting regular exercise can help you get your blood pressure into a healthy range. But this is a long-term effect of exercise, not an immediate effect.

Physical activity often increases blood pressure. This is a natural result of autoregulation in response to increased blood demand from the muscles.

In order to meet the increased blood demand, the heart has to pump faster and harder, pushing a larger volume of blood into the fixed space of the blood vessels. Because arteries cannot expand very much to accommodate this extra blood, the blood pressure will temporarily rise.

What Causes Increases in Blood Pressure?

Even if you’re being treated for high blood pressure, your pressures will still rise after exercising. Walking, taking the stairs, and even lifting or moving supplies can all cause your blood pressure to increase.

How much your pressure rises depends on how high it is to begin with and how conditioned your cardiovascular system is.

The better shape you're in, the less your blood pressure will rise with increased physical activity. People who are out of shape will have the same blood pressure increase with much less physical activity than people who have good cardiovascular health.

Long-Term Blood Pressure Control

Regular physical activity is an important part of long-term blood pressure control. Exercise conditions the heart and improves the health of blood vessels. It also will help you manage your weight, lower your stress, and make you feel good.

You should make sure to clear your exercise program with your clinician before you start or increase it, especially if you have a heart condition.

Even with medication, your blood pressure may still be above normal, and an activity program that is too strenuous could cause your blood pressure to rise to levels that may be unsafe.

Generally speaking, you should aim for systolic blood pressure (the top number) below 180, even during and immediately after exercise. And the risk of dangerous events, like heart attack and stroke, rapidly rise as the systolic pressure goes above 200.

Choosing Exercises for Blood Pressure Control

Your healthcare provider can help you determine target blood pressure and heart rate ranges and will be able to suggest some specific activities that allow you to exercise while staying within this recommended range.

Don’t be discouraged if your activity choices seem limited at the beginning. As you condition your cardiovascular system, you will be able to engage in more strenuous activities without raising your blood pressure into a dangerous range.

In addition, when you begin your exercise program, remember to warm up before and cool down after your activities. Don't forget to breathe—holding your breath in can further raise your blood pressure.

Exercising Tips

According to the American Heart Association, healthy people should get 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week—that's 30 minutes a day, five days a week. Examples of moderate-intensity forms of exercise include brisk walking, gardening, water aerobics, playing tennis (doubles), and ballroom dancing.

Remember that you can incorporate exercise into your daily life—walking up that flight of stairs or that three-block walk to the store can make a difference. You also don't need fancy equipment or a gym membership. Just getting outside to walk in the park may be all you need.

Furthermore, it's a good idea to recruit an exercise partner to hold you accountable. A partner can also make your activity more social and fun.

Finally, choose exercises you enjoy. Whether that's a Pilates class or walking your dog, do something you like. In the end, you will be more likely to stick with an exercise routine you enjoy.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long after exercising should you take your blood pressure?

Wait at least 30 minutes after exercising to take your blood pressure. Sit and rest for at least five minutes beforehand to help you get a more accurate reading.

Why does my blood pressure drop after exercise?

Sometimes after a workout, blood can pool in the extremities, which results in less blood returning to the heart and a decrease in blood pressure. Also, the blood vessels near the skin surface widen to help release heat, causing a drop in blood pressure as well. Let your healthcare provider know if you feel dizzy or lightheaded during exercise, as it could indicate an underlying condition.

A Word From Verywell

As you take charge of your health and formulate an exercise plan, please share your plans with your healthcare clinician. You'll want to make sure that you're are starting off with a regimen that is right, safe for you, and meets your individual goals. Try not to get discouraged either—pace yourself and keep going.

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5 Sources
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