Hypertension risk: exercise is medicine* for most but not all

Clin Physiol Funct Imaging. 2014 Jan;34(1):77-81. doi: 10.1111/cpf.12059. Epub 2013 Jun 7.


Hypertension is a risk factor for heart disease, and chronic exercise is recognized as a method for reducing resting blood pressure. Recent studies report that while exercise may benefit the majority of the population, the blood pressure adaptation is not always uniform; some individuals have an adverse blood pressure response to chronic aerobic exercise programmes. The purpose of this study was to examine the individual changes in resting blood pressure in response to exercise training regimens aimed at increasing muscle mass and strength. We have also included exercise (resistance and aerobic) in combination with blood flow restriction (BFR). Of 74 individuals, 11% had an increased risk, 16% had a decreased risk and 73% had no change in risk classification following exercise. The statistical analysis found that the group that decreased risk with exercise tended to have higher baseline levels of blood pressure. However, there were little baseline differences between the group that increased risk or the group that had no change in risk, suggesting that starting values may not necessarily determine who will see a beneficial response. In conclusion, the blood pressure adaptation to resistance training and exercise with BFR is not homogeneous with some participants increasing, decreasing or staying in the same risk category following an exercise intervention. These are important findings as they would not have been noted or discussed when looking only at the group means. Future research may identify molecular predictors so that individuals at risk for adverse events can be identified prior to exercise.

Keywords: blood flow restriction; blood pressure; genetics; resistance training; strength.

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Physiological
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Blood Pressure*
  • Exercise*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hypertension / diagnosis
  • Hypertension / etiology
  • Hypertension / physiopathology*
  • Hypertension / prevention & control
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Muscle Contraction
  • Muscle Strength
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiology
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Young Adult