Morning exercise could reduce high blood pressure in older people

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In a recent study from the University of Western Australia, scientists found in sedentary overweight older adults, morning exercise reduces systolic blood pressure, with additional benefits seen by combining exercise with regular breaks in sitting.

Blood pressure is the force of blood pushing against the walls of arteries as the heart pumps blood.

When a health care professional measures your blood pressure, they use a blood pressure cuff around your arm that gradually tightens. The results are given in two numbers.

The first number, called systolic blood pressure, is the pressure caused by your heart contracting and pushing out blood.

The second number, called diastolic blood pressure, is the pressure when your heart relaxes and fills with blood.

In the study, the team examined whether there is an additive benefit for lowering blood pressure when exercise is combined with subsequent breaks in sitting among 67 sedentary older adults.

Participants completed three conditions in random order: sitting, which was uninterrupted sitting for eight hours; exercise + sitting, which included a 30-minute moderate-intensity walk;

and exercise + breaks, which included a 30-minute moderate-intensity walk and sitting interrupted with light-intensity walking breaks.

The researchers found that relative to sitting, the eight-hour average systolic and diastolic blood pressure was lower in exercise + sitting and exercise + breaks.

Relative to exercise + sitting, there was an additional reduction in average systolic blood pressure of −1.7 mm Hg in exercise + breaks.

This reduction was mainly seen in women (−3.2 mm Hg). Relative to sitting, there was a decrease in average epinephrine in exercise + sitting and exercise + breaks in women (−13 to −12 percent), but an increase was seen in men (+12 to +23 percent).

This line of evidence may inform clinical and public health discussions around tailored strategies to optimize BP targets in older adults with increased heart disease risk.

The research was published in Hypertension and conducted by Michael J. Wheeler et al.

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