Exercise is commonly understood to lower blood pressure by making the heart stronger. Mayo Clinic says,

Regular physical activity makes your heart stronger. A stronger heart can pump more blood with less effort. If your heart can work less to pump, the force on your arteries decreases, lowering your blood pressure.

While exercising, though, systolic blood pressure will often go up significantly.

Why does this dramatic increase in blood pressure not damage the cardiovascular system? Stress, for example, can damage the blood vessels,

Increases in blood pressure related to stress can be dramatic. But when your stress goes away, your blood pressure returns to normal. However, even frequent, temporary spikes in blood pressure can damage your blood vessels, heart and kidneys in a way similar to long-term high blood pressure. (Mayo Clinic)

Does daily exercise, for example, not cause "frequent, temporary spikes in blood pressure"?

Why does a blood pressure increase from exercise not damage the cardiovascular system as a similar blood pressure increase from stress (or other sources)?


1 Answer 1


Actually it can. See https://clinicalhypertension.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s40885-016-0052-y for instance:

Deleterious effects of HRE [hypertensive response to exercise] on structure and function of left ventricle (LV) has been reported consistently. Theoretically, individuals with HRE would be exposed to abnormally high pressure loads to left ventricle (LV), which may result in global subendocardial ischemia due to mismatch between demand and supply from excessive rate-pressure stress. Indeed, a previous study demonstrated a greater likelihood of new or worsening abnormalities of wall motions from echocardiography in individuals with HRE, even in the absence of angiographically significant coronary artery stenosis.

The issue is that you're confusing somewhat high blood pressure with abnormally high blood pressure during/after exercise, i.e.

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  • $\begingroup$ Thank you, that's useful. Even a healthy response to exercise, e.g. 160 mm Hg systolic, would damage the heart over long periods, though, so I guess it's just the fact that exercise lasts a relatively short period of time is the reason it's beneficial? I suppose, say, exercising 8 hours a day (or, for that matter, being stressed for 8 hours a day), would be damaging? $\endgroup$
    – user64184
    Commented Feb 11, 2021 at 0:22

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