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

Normal blood pressure is around 120 over 80 (commonly written as 120/80). But that doesn't mean anything above or below that number isn't healthy. In fact, healthy blood pressure is generally considered to fall 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.

A senior out for a run.
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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 the body's 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 blood pressure will still rise after exercising. Walking, taking the stairs, and even lifting or moving large items 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 see their blood pressure increase with much less physical activity than people who are in 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.

If you already have high blood pressure, even with medication, your blood pressure may still be above normal. An activity program that is too strenuous could cause your blood pressure to rise to levels that may be unsafe.

You should make sure to clear your exercise program with your clinician before you start or ramp up physical activity, especially if you have a heart condition.

Generally speaking, you should aim for systolic blood pressure (the top number) below 180, even during and immediately after exercise. The risk of dangerous events, like heart attack and stroke, rapidly rises as 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. They 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 to a risky 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. The blood vessels near the skin surface also widen to help release heat as you're exercising, causing a drop in blood pressure as well. Let your healthcare provider know if you feel dizzy or lightheaded during physical activity, as it could indicate an underlying condition.

A Word From Verywell

As you take charge of your health and formulate an exercise plan, share your plans with your healthcare provider. You'll want to make sure you're starting off with a regimen that is safe for you and meets your individual goals. Don't get discouraged—remember consistency creates the best results. Create a manageable routine, pace yourself, and keep going.

5 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. American Heart Association, "Getting Active to Control High Blood Pressure"

  2. Ciolac EG. High-Intensity Interval Training and Hypertension: Maximizing the Benefits of Exercise? Am J Cardiovasc Dis. 2012;2(2):102-110. PMCID:


  3. US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, "Measuring Physical Activity Intensity"

  4. Preventive Cardiovascular Nurses Association. The basics of blood pressure.

  5. Holt S. Low blood pressure and exercise: What to look out for.

By Craig O. Weber, MD
Craig O. Weber, MD, is a board-certified occupational specialist who has practiced for over 36 years.