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Walking 2 Extra Miles a
Day Lowers Blood Pressure

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Increasing daily walking by just 1 or 2 miles a day may be as effective as traditional exercise programs in lowering high blood pressure in postmenopausal women, according to new study findings.

Approximately 43 million adults in the United States have high blood pressure, or hypertension, and the condition is most common among men and postmenopausal women.

``The women in our study lowered their blood pressure without losing weight, decreasing their body fat or changing their diet, demonstrating that exercise alone--in this case, walking--was effective in lowering their blood pressure,'' lead author Dr. Kerrie L. Moreau of the University of Colorado at Boulder told Reuters Health.

Moreau and colleagues at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville studied 24 postmenopausal women with borderline or diagnosed high blood pressure, 10 of whom reported taking antihypertensive medications.

Fifteen of the women were assigned to a 24-week exercise program designed to increase their daily walking by 3 kilometers, or about 1.9 miles. The remaining nine did not change their regular activity. Women in both groups wore pedometers to measure how far they walked.

As a result of walking 4,300 more steps--about 2.9 kilometers or 1.8 miles--per day than they did at the beginning of the study, the exercisers brought their systolic blood pressure (the first number in a blood pressure reading) down by about 11 points after 24 weeks. The decrease was similar to that observed among people with hypertension who participate in traditional exercise programs, the researchers report in the November issue of Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise.

Six women--including four who had diagnosed hypertension--lowered their blood pressure to normal levels, while three more women with hypertension lowered their blood pressure to borderline range.

What's more, eight exercisers lowered their pressure by at least 12 points--a reduction that has been associated with a lowered risk of heart disease, stroke and death from heart-related causes, the authors note.

Lower pressures were seen among people on high blood pressure medication as well as their non-medicated peers, the report indicates.

``Furthermore, because some of the women in our study normalized their blood pressure, our results are important for physicians and healthcare professionals who are looking for effective lifestyle strategies for lowering high blood pressure,'' Moreau said.

In order to gain such benefit from the exercise, however, the walking ``has to be above and beyond what one is currently doing,'' the researcher stressed. ``Women should strive to walk 10,000 steps per day...and it can be accumulated throughout the day,'' she said.

Moreau cautioned against generalizing the findings to men and younger women, but she added that ``physical activity in general has been shown to improve blood pressure regardless of sex and age...thus, it is plausible to assume that men and young women could benefit from walking (an extra) 1.5 to 2 miles per day.''

SOURCE: Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise 2001;33:1825-1831.

Reference Source 89


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