To quantify the duration of postexercise hypotension at different exercise intensities, we studied six unmedicated, mildly hypertensive men matched with six normotensive controls. Each subject wore a 24-hour ambulatory blood pressure monitor at the same time of day for 13 consecutive hours on 3 different days. On each of the 3 days, subjects either cycled for 30 minutes at 40% or 70% maximum VO2 or performed activities of daily living. There was no intensity effect on the postexercise reduction in blood pressure, so blood pressure data were combined for the different exercise intensities. Postexercise diastolic blood pressure and mean arterial pressure were lower by 8 +/- 1 (p less than 0.001) and 7 +/- 1 mm Hg (p less than 0.05), respectively, than the preexercise values for 12.7 hours in the hypertensive group. These variables were not different before and after exercise in the normotensive group. Systolic blood pressure was reduced by 5 +/- 1 mm Hg (p less than 0.05) for 8.7 hours after exercise in the hypertensive group. In contrast, systolic blood pressure was 5 +/- 1 mm Hg (p less than 0.001) higher for 12.7 hours after exercise in the normotensive group. When the blood pressure response on the exercise days was compared with that on the nonexercise day, systolic blood pressure (135 +/- 1 versus 145 +/- 1 mm Hg) and mean arterial pressure (100 +/- 1 versus 106 +/- 1 mm Hg) were lower (p less than 0.05) on the exercise days in the hypertensive but not in the normotensive group. We found a postexercise reduction in mean arterial pressure for 12.7 hours independent of the exercise intensity in the hypertensive group. Furthermore, mean arterial pressure was lower on exercise than on nonexercise days in the hypertensive but not in the normotensive group. These findings indicate that dynamic exercise may be an important adjunct in the treatment of mild hypertension.