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exercise, blood pressure, cardiorespiratory fitness



  1. Kokkinos, Peter F. PhD
  2. Andreas, Pittaras E. MD
  3. Coutoulakis, Emmanuel MA
  4. Colleran, John A. DO
  5. Narayan, Puneet MD
  6. Dotson, Charles O. PhD
  7. Choucair, Wassim MD
  8. Farmer, Colleen PhD
  9. Fernhall, Bo PhD


PURPOSE: Exaggerated blood pressure (BP) response during physical exertion is associated with increased risk for cardiovascular events. Furthermore, it may be the predisposing factor for myocardial infarction triggered by physical exertion. The authors have shown that systolic BP achieved after 6 minutes of exercise is the strongest predictor of left ventricular hypertrophy. Furthermore, a 37 mm Hg increase in systolic BP above resting BP at 6 minutes of exercise was the threshold for left ventricular hypertrophy. The purpose of this study was to determine predictors of exercise BP response in normotensive and hypertensive women.


METHODS: An exercise tolerance test (Bruce) was performed by 1411 normotensive (resting BP < 140/90 mm Hg) and hypertensive (resting BP >= 140/90 mm Hg) women. These women were faculty, students, and staff at the University of Maryland, College Park, Maryland, and the George Washington University Medical Center, as well as patients undergoing a routine exercise tolerance test at West Coast Cardiology, Pinellas Park, Florida. Two fitness categories (low-fit and high-fit) were established on the basis of treadmill time to exhaustion adjusted for age.


RESULTS: Significant associations were observed among the 6-minute exercise BP and age, body mass index, resting systolic and diastolic BP, heart rate, and exercise time to exhaustion. In a stepwise multiple-regression analysis, the determinants of BP after 6 minutes of exercise were resting systolic BP and treadmill time to exhaustion (R2 = 0.36) for normotensive women and treadmill time to exhaustion and resting systolic BP (R2 = 0.30) for hypertensive women. When fitness categories were contrasted, low-fit women in both the normotensive and hypertensive categories had higher BP and rate-pressure product after 6 minutes of exercise than the high-fit women (P < .05).


CONCLUSIONS: Resting systolic BP and cardiorespiratory fitness are determinants of a submaximal exercise BP response for both hypertensive and normotensive women. Low cardiorespiratory fitness is associated with a higher BP response during submaximal exercise, suggesting that increased fitness may attenuate this abnormal rise in BP. Thus, low- to moderate-intensity physical activities for most days of the week should be encouraged for all women to increase cardiorespiratory fitness. This is likely to attenuate an abnormal rise in systolic BP that may occur during routine daily activities and protect against the associated health consequences.