The "Sneaky" Way To Lower Your Blood Pressure
take heart. Three or four short, brisk walks throughout the day can be
more helpful to people watching their blood pressure than one
continuous bout of exercise, according to Indiana University
problem for most people is they don't have the time," said Janet P.
Wallace, professor in the Department of Kinesiology at the IU School of
Health, Physical Education and Recreation. "You might think, 'I don't
have the time to go to the gym or work out for 40 minutes, but I might
have the time to do 10 minutes here, 10 minutes here and another 10
minutes here.' Four 10-minute walks would be ideal."
study compared the effect of accumulated versus continuous physical
activity on prehypertension, an elevated blood pressure level that
typically progresses to hypertension or high blood pressure.
Uncontrolled, high blood pressure can increase a person's risk for
heart attack, heart failure, kidney failure, stroke and blindness. More
than 45 million people in the United States are thought to have
prehypertension, which is treated only with diet and exercise.
Both forms of
exercise, accumulated and continuous, decreased study participants'
blood pressure by the same amount, Wallace's study found. The effect
lasted for around 11 hours in the group who took four 10-minute walks,
compared to seven hours for the group that walked continuously for 40
"We had no
idea the short bouts would be better," Wallace said. "Most studies
found in the literature report the long, continuous session as more
effective for many variables."
pressure measures how hard and efficiently the heart pumps blood
through the body and ismeasured in millimeters of mercury (mm Hg).
Systolic blood pressure reflects how hard the heart works when it pumps
blood. Diastolic blood pressure reflects the resistance to the blood
when the heart is not pumping. A person has prehypertension when the
systolic blood pressure ranges from 120-139 mm Hg or the diastolic
pressure ranges from 80-89 mm Hg.
randomized crossover study involved 15 men and five women with
prehypertension. They walked on a treadmill continuously for 40 minutes
and on another day, four times for 10 minutes over the course of 3.5
hours. On average, their systolic blood pressure dropped 5.4-5.6 mm Hg
and their diastolic blood pressure dropped 3.2 mm Hg. The drop is
significant because a reduction of 5 mm Hg in systolic blood pressure
has been reported to substantially reduce mortality and to reduce the
incidence of stroke and coronary heart disease.
prehypertension research was funded in part by a grant from the
Gatorade Sports Science Institute. Wallace has begun a similar study
involving people with hypertension.
Wallace's findings were published in the September issue of the Journal of Hypertension.
Co-authors are Saejong Park, a doctoral student in the Department of
Kinesiology, and Lawrence D. Rink, a clinical professor of medicine at
the IU School of Medicine.
For more information, visit www.indiana.edu.