These days, we are more conscious of our health more than ever. And that’s not a bad thing!
With the ability to see our blood pressure, pulse, O2 levels and more all at home at a moments notice, we can keep track of our health too and make sure what we are doing every day is healthy!
As an EMT [ambulance guys] bodybuilder in nursing school at the time of writing this, I have a ton of experience in this topic.
So, that brings us to the question, do bodybuilders have high blood pressure?
Scientifically speaking, no. Bodybuilders do not have high blood pressure. In fact, bodybuilding typically LOWERS blood pressure to a healthier state. Bodybuilders tend to have less fat, which means less fat in the arteries too. This means the body has an easy time pumping blood. Furthermore, bodybuilders have much stronger hearts that can pump a lot more blood to make up for that muscle.
Let’s cover this a bit more in-depth, and look at some science about this.
What is Blood Pressure? And Why is It Important?
Blood pressure is super important. In fact, it’s one of the ‘vital’ signs a nurse, EMT, or doctor will take from you the moment you enter their care.
Blood pressure tells a lot about what’s going on in your body without having to look at anything else.
Here is a list of things that a blood pressure can tell me, an EMT (someone in the ambulance when you call 911).
- If you are internally bleeding.
- If your heart is failing or something is wrong with your heart.
- If you are entering Shock.
- If your body is having significant problems pumping blood somewhere, hinting at a potential heart attack or stroke.
- If you’re calm, agitated, or nervous.
- If your kidneys are failing you.
While blood pressure doesn’t usually ‘specifically’ say what’s wrong, it can help a trained medical professional identify the problem or at the very least alert them by saying, “Hey! Something’s very wrong here!”.
Officially, the definition of blood pressure is: “the pressure of the blood in the circulatory system, often measured for diagnosis since it is closely related to the force and rate of the heartbeat and the diameter and elasticity of the arterial walls”.
Basically, your blood pressure is how much pressure it takes to get blood flowing throughout your whole body.
Why Does It Matter If Blood Pressure is Low or High?
If this number is really high, that’s not good because that means your body is working SUPER HARD to get blood throughout your body.
This means that your arterial walls may get damaged, parts of your heart may get damaged, you may feel very sick, and there are tons and tons of other serious problems that come with this.
And on the other end, if it’s very low that’s a problem too! That means your blood is moving very, very slow and we need to figure out why. It could range from internal bleeding to your heart not working anymore.
As we can see, both of these aren’t very good. But that’s why it’s so important to have your blood pressure regularly checked so you can stay healthy!
What’s a Good Blood Pressure?
Generally speaking, 120/80 is a good blood pressure, according to the National Institute of Health. But, everybody is a little different.
The right blood pressure for you is different than everyone else. It’s important to check in with your primary care provider to make sure you’re following the right base line vitals for you.
For instance, if your family just naturally, genetically has a higher blood pressure- that might be the healthy range for you. Furthermore, if you have a history of heart problems or other health problems, your blood pressure will be a lot different than other people.
But, generally speaking, you will usually want to aim for whatever your ‘baseline blood pressure’ is. If your blood pressure starts climbing super high or going away from that baseline, that usually isn’t good and you’ll want to follow up with your doctor.
Most people know that a high blood pressure is generally bad. So, most people don’t want that. Which leads us to our final question, do bodybuilders have a high blood pressure?
Do Bodybuilders Have Higher Blood Pressure? No.
Here’s the good news, bodybuilders generally do NOT have higher blood pressure. If a bodybuilder has higher blood pressure, it’s usually related to other health conditions and NOT bodybuilding.
As a matter of fact, bodybuilding is a sport that naturally makes your blood pressure healthier!
A study was done in the Canadian Journal of Sport Sciences in 1988 called, “Blood pressure in resistance-trained athletes”. This study was done near the Golden Era of Bodybuilding, arguably the time where bodybuilding was at its ‘peak’.
The goal of the study was to see exactly if bodybuilders had higher blood pressures than people that aren’t bodybuilders. Furthermore, the study wanted to see if bodybuilding was a sport that caused higher blood pressures in general.
The study found: “Bodybuilders, however, displayed lower (p less than 0.01-0.001) heart rate at identical power outputs of exercise. The results of the present study together with other observations suggest that intense long-term strength training, as performed by bodybuilders, does not constitute a potential cardiovascular risk factor”.
Basically, the study found that bodybuilding DOES NOT increase blood pressure, and as a matter of fact- the bodybuilders tended to have lower blood pressures than the other people in the study.
Here’s Why Bodybuilders Have Lower Blood Pressures
You may be wondering- what is it about bodybuilding that makes people’s blood pressures lower? And you may be wondering if bodybuilding is something you may want to pick up.
Well, bodybuilding is a sport that focuses on both strength and cardiovascular training. The main thing is though- it’s exercise.
We all know that if you join the local running group or start hitting the treadmill regularly, you’ll get healthier.
Most people don’t realize, however, that strength training is important for your body’s health too. And bodybuilding is combining these!
At it’s core, bodybuilding is exercise like any other exercise. Which means you’ll see significant health improvements from doing it.
Here are some of the benefits that bodybuilding brings to your heart health (according to Harvard):
- Reduce plaque buildup in the arteries
- Lower cholesterol levels
- Lower blood pressure *whole point of this article haha
- Improve blood flow
However, there are some things that set bodybuilding apart from just running.
Bodybuilding Causes Your Heart To Grow A Different Type of Cardiac Muscle
When you do strength training, your heart actually grows different cardiac muscle to make up for that. That’s right, whenever you do cardio or strength training, your heart muscle gets stronger too- not just your normal muscles!
Typically, cardio makes your heart grow muscle that specializes on long-term blood pumping to your body. And it makes sense, cardio is generally longer and requires a more consistent source of energy.
Weight training on the other hand typically relies on more of an immediate but powerful blood response.
- Compare this to putting out a fire with water. Muscle for cardio is like turning on a hose and aiming it at the fire. Sure, it’s not a ton of water, but it’s consistent and eventually the fire will (hopefully) be put out.
- On the other hand, muscle for strength training is like pouring a massive bucket of water on the fire. (Compare this to a helicopter dropping water on a wildfire) It’s much more at once, but you’ll run out really quickly.
But think of your lifting. Usually you do 5 reps and the energy gets burned out of the tank right away- then you rest. Meanwhile with cardio, you just keep going. Notice how the energy is different?
Your heart adapts to this too, and that’s one of the greatest reasons bodybuilding is so good for your health. It’s combining both of these muscles in the heart so you get the best of both worlds.
I cover this a lot more in my “Cardio While Bulking” article where I even share the science behind it all.
When May Bodybuilding Be BAD For Blood Pressure?
So, not all bodybuilding is perfect. And I think some of the more extreme cases kind of show why there is a stigma about bodybuilding being bad for your health.
Bodybuilding can be bad for your blood pressure when you take it too far. However, MOST bodybuilders won’t reach this point basically ever in their career.
For bodybuilding to be bad for your health, you generally will have to start using performance enhancers, aka the roids. This is, to say the least, a bad idea.
Our bodies have evolved over millions of years with the idea of ‘Survival of the Fittest’- basically, we would not survive if our bodies were evolving in a way that would hurt our survival.
Our body knows its’ limit and knows how much muscle it needs to survive. When you start forcing your body to do things against its’ millions of years of evolution, bad things happen.
When these ‘muscle giants’ take these performance enhancers and start putting on TOO much muscle that their heart can no longer safely handle, that’s when it gets bad.
Surprisingly though, our heart is very resilient through even that. At Rich Piana’s death, his heart was nearly double the size of the normal person’s heart. His heart simply evolved with the rest of his body!
Even though his heart evolved, it was still a bad idea as it put a lot of strain on him. Even Rich Piana himself commented that his body would tell him when he weighed too much. For instance, at 300 lbs he said his heart couldn’t handle it and he had to drop weight.
But, for most people that are going to do bodybuilding to put on a decent amount of muscle and stay healthy, they should have no problem with it unless they start putting on too much fat or way too much muscle.
Generally speaking however, it is very difficult to put on an amount of muscle your body cannot handle without performance enhancers, as your body usually won’t let you.
The key is: always listen to your body. If you are a serious bodybuilder and you’re hitting your genetic maximums and you start feeling like your heart cannot handle it, drop some weight.
So, what’s the takeaway here? MOST bodybuilders will not have any blood pressure issues as long as they listen to their body and stay away from performance enhancers.
Conclusion of Do Bodybuilders Have High Blood Pressure?
To wrap up this article, the answer is: No, bodybuilders generally do not have high blood pressure, and in fact usually have healthier and lower blood pressures!
If a bodybuilder is using performance enhancers or clearly just ignoring their body, then perhaps they may start to see health issues. But, generally speaking, bodybuilding is a healthy sport when done correctly and in moderation. (Which is always easier said than done…)
Thank you for reading!