Brisk Walks Help Blood Pressure

Reduce Hypertension Risks with Brisk Walking

Enjoying a Brisk Walk
Enjoying a Brisk Walk. Steve Debenport/Getty Images

Whether you have high blood pressure and have been diagnosed with hypertension or prehypertension, getting regular aerobic exercise such as brisk walking can help lower it. A review of the exercise recommendations for hypertension noted that exercise had as much effect on blood pressure as many medications. Research also finds that several short, brisk walks can help as much as a longer workout.

Exercise Recommendations for High Blood Pressure

The American Heart Association says, "If you need to lower your blood pressure or cholesterol, aim for 40 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity 3 to 4 times per week." The Canadian Hypertension Education Program offers the same recommendations.

While aerobic exercise such as brisk walking was still a top recommendation because it has the most effect, they also included dynamic strength exercise. Their recommendation for an exercise regimen is "a combination of 30 min or more per day of moderate intensity aerobic exercise on most, preferably all, days of the week and dynamic resistance exercise 2 to 3 days per week to total 150 min or more of exercise per week."

Prehypertension? Short, Brisk Walks Can Lower Blood Pressure

Prehypertension is a condition with elevated blood pressure that often progresses to high blood pressure (hypertension). Uncontrolled high blood pressure increases your risk of heart attack, kidney failure, and stroke. Prehypertension can be treated with diet and exercise.

Is your blood pressure creeping up? According to a study in the Journal of Hypertension, taking short, brisk 10-minute walks four times a day can decrease your blood pressure for 11 hours.

Taking a 40-minute continuous walk can keep your blood pressure down for seven hours.

The study of the effects of exercise on involved 15 men and 5 women with prehypertension. One day, they were assigned to walk for 40 continuous minutes on a treadmill. On another day, they walked 4 times for 10 minutes over the course of 3.5 hours.

Their systolic blood pressure dropped 5.4 to 5.6 mm Hg, a reduction significant enough to reduce their risk of stroke and heart disease.

Fit in Brisk, 10-Minute Walks

Many people say they don't have time for a 30 to 60-minute continuous workout during the day. But most people can fit in shorter walks on their way to and from work or school, and during breaks and lunches. (Perhaps "4 a Day" for short, 10-minute walks needs to be a health promotion.)
Get the Most From a 15-Minute Walk

The question is, are you walking briskly so your pulse and breathing are intensified, or are you just taking an easy stroll. Brisk walking is moderate intensity exercise, while an easy walking pace is light intensity. More: What is Brisk Walking?

Are Longer Walks Better or Not?

The study found that either one long or several short walks throughout the day have benefit. This result was surprising to the researchers, who noted that other studies found that longer exercise sessions have better health effects. The debate over whether total daily steps v. continuous exercise is better rages on.

Still, it has only winners -- whether you get in the steps in several bouts throughout the day or in one big session, it's all good! Exercising alone can reduce your risk.

Sources:

Park, Saejong a; Rink, Lawrence D b; Wallace, Janet P. Accumulation of physical activity leads to a greater blood pressure reduction than a single continuous session, in prehypertension. Journal of Hypertension. September 2006, 24:9.

"Physical Activity and Blood Pressure," American Heart Association, 8/4/14.

Pescatello LS, MacDonald HV, Ash GI, Lamberti LM, Farquhar WB, Arena R, Johnson BT. "Assessing the Existing Professional Exercise Recommendations for Hypertension: A Review and Recommendations for Future Research Priorities." Mayo Clin Proc. 2015 Jun;90(6):801-12. doi: 10.1016/j.mayocp.2015.04.008.

Linda S. Pescatello, Hayley V. MacDonald, Lauren Lamberti, and Blair T. Johnson. "Exercise for Hypertension: A Prescription Update Integrating Existing Recommendations with Emerging Research" Curr Hypertens Rep. 2015; 17(11): 87. Published online 2015 Sep 30. doi:  10.1007/s11906-015-0600-y

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