Hypertensive patients present an exaggerated increase in blood pressure and an elevated cardiovascular risk during exercise. Although controversial, human studies suggest that group III and IV skeletal muscle afferents might contribute to this abnormal response. In the present study, we investigated whether attenuation of the group III and IV muscle afferent signal of hypertensive men eliminates the exaggerated increase in blood pressure occurring during exercise. Eight hypertensive men performed two sessions of 5 min of cycling exercise at 40 W. Between sessions, the subjects were provided with a lumbar intrathecal injection of fentanyl, a μ-opioid receptor agonist, aiming to attenuate the central projection of opioid-sensitive group III and IV muscle afferent nerves. The cardiovascular response to exercise of these subjects was compared with that of six normotensive men. During cycling, the hypertensive group demonstrated an exaggerated increase in blood pressure compared to the normotensive group (mean ± SEM: +17 ± 3 vs. +8 ± 1 mmHg, respectively; P < 0.05), whereas the increase in heart rate, stroke volume, cardiac output and vascular conductance was similar (P > 0.05). Fentanyl inhibited the blood pressure response to exercise in the hypertensive group (+11 ± 2 mmHg) to a level comparable to that of the normotensive group (P > 0.05). Moreover, fentanyl increased the responses of vascular conductance and stroke volume to exercise (P < 0.05), whereas the heart rate response was attenuated (P < 0.05) and the cardiac output response was maintained (P > 0.05). The results of the present study show that attenuation of the exercise pressor reflex normalizes the blood pressure response to cycling exercise in hypertensive individuals.