Calcium Channel Blockers' Effects on Exercise Capacity

Calcium channel blockers are a class of medications prescribed to treat high blood pressure, angina, cardiovascular disease and other conditions. They do not significantly impair exercise capacity. In fact, for people with angina, they may boost exercise tolerance. They are generally well tolerated by athletes, although they may affect exercise performance and maximal heart rate.

Calcium Channel Blockers and Blood Pressure

Calcium channel blockers inhibit the release of calcium into the smooth muscle cells in the walls of your arteries. Because calcium is necessary for muscles to contract, blocking its release causes those muscles to relax and your arteries to widen, or dilate. This results in a reduction in your blood pressure. Calcium channel blockers affect the muscles in your heart in a similar way. Your heart contracts less forcefully, further reducing your blood pressure

Calcium Channel Blockers and the Heart

What Happens to the Blood Oxygen Level When a Human Exercises?

Learn More

When your blood pressure decreases and your heart beats less forcefully, your heart doesn't have to work as hard. It requires less oxygen. At the same time, as your arteries dilate, your heart receives more oxygen. You're less likely to experience the pain of angina, which occurs when your heart doesn't get enough oxygen. Because calcium channels affect the way electrical signals are transmitted through your heart, calcium channel blockers can also fix abnormal heartbeats.

Exercise Capacity

In general, calcium channel blockers do not have a major effect on exercise capacity, although they can help people with angina better tolerate exercise. They don't significantly affect energy metabolism or reduce your body's ability to take up and use oxygen. However, as blood vessels throughout your body dilate, blood flow into your working muscles may be decreased. You may also more quickly reach the lactate threshold -- the point where lactic acid begins to build up in your muscles -- which could affect athletic performance.

Other Exercise Effects

How Do the Walls of the Atria & Ventricles Differ?

Learn More

Certain calcium channel blockers can reduce both your resting and maximum heart rates and decrease your heart rate response to exercise. They may also delay or prevent symptoms of myocardial ischemia, or reduced blood flow to the heart. For individuals using those medications, the American College of Sports Medicine recommends exercise testing to determine exercise heart rate targets.