My blood pressure was once very high but is now under control. Is it safe for me to take up weight training?
Before you begin any exercise program, discuss your exercise plans with your doctor. Men with high blood pressure may be advised to avoid certain activities due to concern about excessive dehydration when taking diuretic medications. If you take a diuretic, you would generally begin exercise with a lower volume of water in your system, which would be further depleted upon sweating. In addition, medicines for hypertension, such as beta-blockers or calcium channel blockers, would limit your maximum achievable heart rate.
Over the long-term, weight training in combination with aerobic exercise lowers resting blood pressure. Men with well-controlled blood pressure may safely pursue weight (i.e., resistance) training with a few caveats. For one thing, during the act of weight lifting, immediate spikes in blood pressure occur. The spikes are more pronounced when an individual performs a breath hold and strains during the lift, resulting in what's called a Valsalva maneuver. During the Valsalva maneuver, blood flow returning to the heart decreases and the pressure in the chest cavity rises.
Therefore, you should strive for relaxed and regular breathing during weight lifting. Use an amount of weight that allows for 10 repetitions of smooth movement back and forth, while maintaining your breathing pattern. If you find yourself "grunting" or getting stuck in the middle of the lift, you are using too much weight! Decrease the amount of weight, and stay in the safe range for your blood vessels.