Monday, September 11, 2006

Walk Often for Lower Blood Pressure

Walk Often for Lower Blood Pressure

(Ivanhoe Newswire) -- Several short walks throughout the day could be more beneficial than one longer exercise session, reveals a new study. This is good news for those who do not have a large chunk of time to devote to physical activity.

Researchers from Indiana University in Bloomington, In., compared the effects of continuous activity vs. accumulated physical activity on blood pressure. Diet and exercise are the only non-medicated treatments for prehypertension or elevated blood pressure.

A person has prehypertension when systolic blood pressure, which measures how hard the heart works to pump blood, ranges from 120 millimeters of mercury to 139 millimeters of mercury or when diastolic pressure, which measures the heart's resistance to the blood, ranges from 80 millimeters of mercury to 89 millimeters of mercury. Extended prehypertension often leads to hypertension, or high blood pressure. The long-term effects of high blood pressure include heart attack, heart failure, kidney failure, stroke and blindness.

The study evaluated the effects of exercise duration and frequency on 15 men and five women with prehypertension. Subjects walked on a treadmill for 40 consecutive minutes in one day. On another day, they walked four times for 10 minutes over the course of 3.5 hours.

When they exercised in one, long session, people experienced decreased blood pressure for the next seven hours. When they took four shorter walks, subjects experienced decreased blood pressure for the next 11 hours.

Researchers documented an average drop in systolic blood pressure of between 5.4 millimeters of mercury and 5.6 millimeters of mercury. Diastolic pressure decreased by 3.2 millimeters of mercury on average. A reduction of systolic blood pressure by 5 millimeters of mercury can reduce the risk for stroke and coronary heart disease.

Researchers conclude that cumulative physical activity leads to a greater reduction in blood pressure than a single session of continuous physical activity.

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SOURCE: Journal of Hypertension, 2006;24:000-000

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