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
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,''
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.
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